Subject! Handling of Covid-19 at Muskegon CF
by Ranah Taylor

I join the voices of persons who have loved ones in the Michigan Prison System and have high level concerns over the handling of the prisoners.

There is and has always been a great deal of indifference for prisoners in Michigan prisons. It is especially tough for the prisoners with Covid-19 running rampant in the prisons.

Visits were suspended in March. Muskegon went from zero prisoners infected to 67.5% of the prison population affected. (810 out of 1200 as of August 21 according to a Free Press article).

Once Muskegon started testing prisoners and found some positive results, they started social distancing and requiring masks. However, not all prisoners would wear their masks. Social distancing was put in place in the dining hall. But the prisoners stood neck to neck waiting in long lines with long wait times to enter the dining hall.

When prisoners tested positive and were waiting to be taken to the nursing station, they were allowed to walk around other prisoners who had tested negative.

Prisoners were moved multiple times. My loved one was moved, separating 2 known-to-be-negative prisoners instead of keeping together. A few days later he was moved again. He was placed in a 4-man cell with prisoners who later tested positive. My loved one then tested positive, too.

He wore his mask at all times, practiced social distancing, stayed out of the dining hail, stayed away from groups of prisoners gathered, only used the phone and kiosk at off-times, when there were no lines. He wiped down the phone and kiosk before using it. He cleaned his cell often with bleach and used hand sanitizer. He did everything he could to stay safe, as did his cellmate. If Muskegon had moved the two known to be negative cellmates into a different cell together, he would still be testing negative.

My loved one was taken to Mercy Hospital in Muskegon where he was transferred a few days later to McLaren Hospital in Lansing. He had good things to say about the treatment at Mercy Hospital. Bit, I was appalled when he told me about the conditions at McLaren. The meals they gave them were "stone cold" by the time they got them. There was no hot water for showers. The floors were dirty. They did not give the prisoners masks, hand sanitizer or any cleaning supplies. So, not only does Muskegon's indifferent attitude and inept ability to deal with the virus help spread the virus. That same indifference spread into the prison ward at McLaren as well.

When they began testing the prisoners, they put them on "lock down" - stopping them from going to the yard, the library; using the phones or kiosks. This protocol at the time was understandable because testing was underway. So, when I did not hear from my loved one for almost 2 weeks, I assumed maybe they were under some 2 week quarantine and surely I would hear from him soon.

As the days stretched on with no word from him I became concerned. A friend heard from a prisoner on August 28th saying my loved one had been taken to the hospital. I immediately started calling Muskegon CF to find out where he was at and the status of his condition I will say the guard at the front desk was very helpful even though it was a Sunday. He did look up my loved ones record and found no information about him other than his standard prison record. He suggested I call on Monday when staff was there who could help me.

At 9:00 a.m. Monday Morning, August 31st, I called the Warden's Office. I was referred to the Warden's Assistant who tried to be helpful by transferring me to the Nursing Superintendent. I called every hour leaving voice messages asking for status of his condition. I already knew prison staff rarely ever call back, so I continued to call. I left multiple messages for five full days pleading for a call back, but none came.

I called Mercy Hospital in Muskegon. I was told that no prisoner information was available for the staff to access in their system.

On September 3rd, a friend discovered the MDOC Crisis Hotline number in Lansing and forwarded it to me. When I received my friend's email on September 4th, I immediately called the Crisis Hotline and left all the information... No call back to date — September 11th.

But, on September 7th I received a one minute call from my loved one saying he was "okay". He said he got "a very mild case and also got pneumonia". He sounded a little weak but much stronger than I would have expected, The hospital treated him by giving him oxygen and antibiotics. I have since heard from him again and he sounds even stronger.

It was prayer and my friend who got me through this ordeal because the MDOC was NO HELP AT ALL!

It is not difficult to create a separate database with the prisoners name and numbers of those who tested positive: their location, their current status and a Notes section. When a loved ones calls, add their name and number to the database and call and let them know the status!! A person with average computer skills could handle all 810 positive cases in a single day!! It’s so easy!! Mostly it takes someone who cares enough to do it! We may get a vaccine for the virus by the end of the year but no one is working on a cure for the indifference in the Michigan Department of Corrections!