More prisoners to be tested for COVID-19 with help from Michigan National Guard | Michigan Radio
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More prisoners to be tested for COVID-19 with help from Michigan National Guard

May 3, 2020

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Starting Monday, Michigan National Guard medical personnel will visit the six prisons in the Upper Peninsula to help the Michigan Department of Corrections conduct mass testing of the inmates.

There are about 7,500 inmates in those correctional facilities. In a news release, MDOC Director Heidi Washington indicated she was grateful for the help from the National Guard.

"Their assistance will allow us to accelerate our plans for testing our population which will help us keep our staff, prisoners and the public safe," she said in the statement. Two corrections staff members have died because of COVID-19.

There's been a recent spike in positive cases of COVID-19 within the state's prison population. According to a report from the Department of Corrections, 1,997 cases have been confirmed of 4,353 prisoners tested. The total inmate population in Michigan is about 38,000. So far, at least 41 prisoners have died because of COVID-19.

The number of confirmed cases spiked in late April because of increased testing. About half of the more than 1,400 inmates at the Lakeland Correctional Center in Coldwater tested positive. It was the first prison to conduct mass testing in the state.

National Guard members will start testing at the Baraga Correctional Facility and then work their way east, hitting Alger Correctional Facility, Marquette Branch Prison, Newberry Correctional Facility, Chippewa Correctional Facility, and Kinross Correctional facility. The goal is to finish testing at each prison in one day. 

The Lakeland Correctional Center was the subject of a documentary produced by Michigan Radio's Stateside program last November. You can hear more about that prison here.