Tracy Samilton | Michigan Radio
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Tracy Samilton

Energy and Transportation Reporter / Producer

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.

She took over the auto beat in January, 2009, just a few months before Chrysler and General Motors filed for bankruptcy.

Tracy’s reports can frequently be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as on Michigan Radio.

Her coverage of Michigan’s Detroit Three automakers has taken her as far as Germany, and China. Tracy graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English Literature.

MDOC

Temujin Kensu has been in prison for nearly 35 years, after being convicted of a murder that took place in Port Huron, even though multiple witnesses placed him in Escanaba in the Upper Peninsula at the time.

Kensu's appeals have all failed, largely on technical grounds.  

The 57 year old Kensu, who changed his name from Fred Freeman after his conversion to Buddism in prison, has battled chronic health conditions for years, including an auto-immune disorder, according to his attorney. 

couple walking on a sidewalk
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

Child care businesses in Michigan are still shut down as part of Governor Whitmer's "Stay Safe, Stay Home" executive order, except for those caring for children of essential workers. 

Rebooting this industry will be essential for the recovery of the state’s economy.  But child care administrators say it will likely be a painfully slow process, and require the creation of a “new normal,” for kids, parents, and workers.

Ford Motor Company

Workers at Ford Motor Company's Dearborn Truck Plant are expected to return to work on Tuesday, after their local, UAW Local 600, filed a grievance over COVID-19 protocols at the plant.

The grievance was filed after two UAW members showed up for work last week, before learning the results of tests they'd received for COVID-19.  The tests turned out to be positive.  The situation sparked a brief walkout on Wednesday.

DTE's River Rouge plant
DTE Energy

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel wants what she calls "some shared sacrifice," from utilities to limit how much they get back from customers for pandemic-related costs.

AJ Mast / General Motors

Republican President Donald Trump will visit Ford Motor Company's Rawsonville Components Plant on Thursday.  He is expected to make remarks afterwards.

Ford, in a partnership with General Electric, is building ventilators to help hospitalized COVID-19 patients who need help breathing.

The automaker's contract with the federal government under the Defense Production Act calls for Ford to produce 50,000 of the simplified ventilators by July, at a total price of $336 million.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan has set aside $130 million from its federal CARES Act funding to help child care businesses - both those that have remained open to care for the children of essential workers, and those that have been forced to close due to the state's stay at home order.

May 2020 Consensus Conference / Michigan House and Senate Fiscal Agencies

Michigan's state budget faces a more than six billion dollar shortfall this fiscal year and next, according to a consensus revenue estimate from the state House and Senate Fiscal Agencies.

Budget officials say it's twice as much as the decline in state revenues at the beginning of the Great Recession. The estimate may have to be revised downward again later in the year.

flickr/jobsforfelonshub.com

A federal district judge says an Iraqi man who was being held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Calhoun County Jail should not go back into custody there.  

U.S. District Court Judge Judith Levy had ordered ICE to release Fawzi Zaya in April because his obesity and diabetes put him at great risk of "irreparable injury" or death from the coronavirus.

He was released despite a history of serious crimes, including a second degree murder charge in 2008, as well as ICE's contention that he is a flight risk. 

rollingroscoe / Morguefile

Two ICE detainees with medical conditions have been freed after a federal district judge ordered the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release them from the Calhoun County Jail.  

In her order releasing the two, U.S. District Court Judge Judith Levy said, "COVID-19 does not respect prison walls. The raging global pandemic outside of Calhoun County Correctional Facility and a confirmed case within the facility pose a serious risk to those inside."

Person in orange jumpsuit sitting behind prison bars
Lightfield Studios / Adobe Stock

The coronavirus pandemic is taking a growing toll on the lives of state prison inmates. 

As of May 10, 50 inmates have died after contracting the virus. 

The Michigan Department of Corrections is trying to release as many people as possible in response. But a state law called Truth in Sentencing means only some will benefit from that effort.  

green ooze
Michigan Dept. of Transportation

After a lengthy trial, Circuit Court Judge Hala Jarbou says the city of Madison Heights has the right to tear down most of the buildings on the site of Electro-Plating Services, owned by Gary Sayers.

Pollution on the site was responsible for a bright green spill of liquid onto I-696 in late December last year.

State environmental investigators found the "green ooze" contained high levels of hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen.  

wayne county sheriff headquarters exteriors
Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

Attorneys on behalf of five inmates in Wayne County jails have sued Sheriff Benny Napoleon and jail officials over what they claim are unsanitary and unsafe conditions during the pandemic — exposing inmates to "an unconstitutional risk of substantial harm."

Utility Bill
Flickr

The Citizens Utility Board of Michigan (CUB), a consumers advocacy group, says low-income gas and electric customers "are poised to experience a crisis of service like rarely seen before."

The group says there could be an unprecedented surge of people losing heat and electricity, after the state's moratorium banning utility shutoffs to low income customers ends on June 1st. 

pxfuel

Updated: 4:30 p.m.

Legal and advocacy groups say time is running short in the effort to prevent a surge of COVID-19 infections in the Oakland County Jail. 

The groups are involved in a lawsuit against Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, Curtis Childs, Corrective Services Commander, and the county over conditions in the jail.

Groups representing the five inmate plaintifss in the case include Advancement Project National Office, Civil Rights Corps, LaRene & Kriger P.L.C., Law Firm of Pitt, McGhee, Palmer and Rivers, Michigan Liberation, and the ACLU.

cell block in a prison
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The coronavirus is rapidly spreading in some Michigan prisons, especially Lakeland Correctional Facility, Parnell Correctional Facility, Cotton Correctional Facility, Macomb Correctional Facility, and the Women's Correctional Facility.

Forty-one inmates in Michigan prisons have died of COVID-19 as of April 30. 1,412 others have tested positive for COVID-19.

There could be hundreds, if not thousands, more who have been infected. 

Washtenaw County

 

It's not clear how many county jails are following the Michigan Supreme Court's urging to reduce the number of inmates, but the Washtenaw County Jail has been ahead of the curve, according to Sheriff Jerry Clayton.

Early in March, the jail implemented a system to control the spread of the coronavirus among the incarcerated population, with temperature checks and health screenings for incoming offenders, and access to testing for anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19.

Exterior of fence and prison grounds
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Corrections is testing every inmate for COVID-19 at its Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson.

That's after tests of all the inmates at another prison, Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, found that 80% of inmates who tested positive for COVID-19 showed no symptoms at the time that they were tested (it's not clear how many of those were asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic).

More than a million people - a quarter of Michigan's workforce - have filed for unemployment since Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued her first "Stay Home, Stay Safe," executive order due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The severe downturn in the economy means many people could have trouble paying for basic needs - including  electricity and gas.

ICE

Advocates for immigrants lined up in their cars on Friday outside the Monroe County Jail to protest detentions by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement during the pandemic.

There are 31 ICE detainees at the jail, according to ICE.

Rocky Coronado is with Rapid Response Detroit and says immigrants are housed at a dorm-style open room at the jail. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Hundreds of inmates at one of Michigan’s prisons have tested positive for COVID-19. The number is expected to rise.

The Michigan Department of Corrections confirms more than 600 prisoners have tested positive at the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater. In an email, spokesman Chris Gautz indicated not all results are in and the number will grow.

One of the anchors used to hold Line 5 in place under the Straits of Mackinac.
Screen shot of a Ballard Marine inspection video / Enbridge Energy

State utility regulators say they are putting Enbridge Energy's application for a permit for Line 5 "in abeyance," while they consider Enbridge's assertion that it may not need that permit in the first place.

The company wants to encase a replacement section of Line 5 in a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac.

The Michigan Public Service Commission says the permit application will be on hold as it decides if the state's 1953 order granting the pipeline also grants replacement rights.

Prison bars
flickr user Thomas Hawk / http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

A federal district judge has ordered Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard to take steps to protect inmates housed at the jail from the coronavirus.

American Civil Liberties Union Attorney Phil Mayor says the lawsuit was filed because the jail has been exposing inmates to unsafe, inhumane, and degrading conditions.

inmates outside on basketball court
April Van Buren / Michigan Radio

Attorneys, advocates, family members and inmates are calling on Governor Gretchen Whitmer to use her executive authority to reduce prison populations.

As of April 7, ten Michigan prisons had at least one confirmed COVID-19 case among inmates, and fifteen state prison departments or prisons had confirmed COVID-19 cases among staff.

Lakeland Correctional Facility sign
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A second inmate in a Michigan prison has died of COVID-19

This death is an urgent concern, say advocates.  That's because it happened in a prison that houses many elderly inmates with chronic health conditions.  

The Michigan Department of Corrections says the inmate at Lakeland Correctional in Coldwater was taken to the hospital after testing positive for COVID-19, where he died on April 7. 

Shayan Sanyal / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Updated 2:28 on 4/7/20 to reflect increase in cases 

COVID-19 cases continue to increase rapidly in some Michigan prisons.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 10 prisons now have at least one confirmed COVID-19 case, and at the two most affected prisons, Parnall Correctional Facility and Macomb Correctional Facility, the number of cases is spiking, with a high percentage of positive test results out of those tested.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Former Thetford Township police chief Robert Kenny has been charged with embezzlement and obstruction of justice — again.

That's after a circuit court judge reversed a district court judge's dismissal of the charges.

DTE Energy

DTE Energy is asking state regulators for a $205 million increase for natural gas. 

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says that's the equivalent of an 8% increase on customers' bills and calls it "excessive and unreasonable."  

Nessel says she appreciates that utilities need money to maintain and improve natural gas infrastructure.  But she says DTE can do that with a $65.5 million dollar annual increase. 

teacher at Lakeland COrrectional facility
Isabella Isaacs-Thomas / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Corrections banned nearly all visitors to state prisons in mid-March, to try to prevent the spread of coronavirus among inmates.

But teachers at most prisons are still being told to report to work. The decision is not sitting well with some of them.

Exterior of fence and prison grounds
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Corrections has placed inmates at four prisons on partial lockdown as the number of inmates testing positive for COVID-19 rose over the weekend.

As of 6:00 p.m. Monday, 27 inmates at Macomb Correctional Facility tested positive for COVID-19, and 29 at Parnell Correctional Facility, a minimum security men's prison in Jackson County.

Professor Kevin Corconan teaches philosophy to student inmates
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Temujin Kensu is an inmate at Macomb Correctional Facility, which on Friday reported three confirmed cases of COVID-19 among inmates.

He says many of the things that people outside the prison system can do to try to ward off infection are difficult or simply not possible for him and fellow inmates.

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