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MDOC response to coronavirus (COVID-19) and preventative measures

MI Dept. of Corrections
Mar 12 · 9 min read

Protecting yourself and others: Information on coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Michigan Department of Corrections is taking a series of measures to protect its staff, the prison population and the community as positive cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have been identified in the state.

There are now 7,615 cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Michigan.

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.


Frequently Asked Questions about the MDOC’s response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Michigan Department of Corrections is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of staff, the public and those under our supervision.

You can click here to find information that will help address many commonly-asked questions regarding the MDOC’s response to coronavirus (COVID-19) and preventative steps we’re taking to help protect the health of employees, prisoners and those in the community.


Confirmed Prisoner Cases to Date by Location


What the MDOC is doing to prevent the spread

  • All MDOC staff transporting a prisoner on or off grounds are required to be dressed in full personal protective equipment (PPE), which is available for those employees. Facilities that had positive cases began receiving masks this week that were produced by Michigan State Industries. As production increases, masks and protective gowns will be sent to all facilities for staff and prisoners. In the meantime, facility staff are permitted to bring their own PPE, such as masks, gloves and gowns.
  • The need for social distancing to help prevent the spread of this virus has included asking organizations to have as many people telecommute as possible, and the MDOC is doing that to the extent we can. Employees should have been authorized to telecommute by their supervisor and supervisors who have questions should contact their leadership. No employees who have been ordered to telecommute should return to their work site unless authorized to do so by their deputy director or Director Washington. Employees who are telecommuting should complete required online training during this time.
  • ALL correctional facility employees must continue to report to work. Our facilities need to continue operating as close to normal as possible for the safety of those both outside and inside the institution. We need to continue to keep prisoners engaged and occupied in a productive manner to ensure the stability, safety and security of our facilities. Thank you to our correctional facility staff for all they do to keep the citizens of our state safe.
  • Visitation at facilities statewide has been suspended. In connection with this, face-to-face college classes at all facilities also has been suspended effective immediately for at least the next three weeks. This is a proactive step to keep all staff, volunteers, contractors, and prisoners safe. The MDOC will work with higher education institutions willing and able to deliver classes as correspondence courses for the next three weeks. Core programming and school classes taught by MDOC staff will continue.
  • Anyone entering facilities will be subject to enhanced screening prior to entering. This includes answering screening questions and having their temperatures taken. Anyone suspected of having symptoms will not be allowed in the facility.
  • Outside contractors for substance abuse programming will be allowed inside and will be screened upon entry per the screening protocol. Attorney visits will continue to be authorized.
  • The MDOC will continue to process paroles and release prisoners as scheduled, however, Parole Board lifer and commutation public hearings will be postponed.
  • During this time, transfers of prisoners or staff between facilities will not be authorized without the approval of the Assistant Deputy Director or higher.
  • Corrections Transportation Officers will be reassigned to facilities to augment custody staff as determined by Assistant Deputy Directors.
  • Most construction projects have been placed on hold for 60 days. Each project will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
  • No out-of-state business travel will be allowed through May 15. All in-state business travel should be for essential matters only.
  • Staff are encouraged to use phone calls, email and teleconferencing in place of in-person meetings when possible. Any necessary in-person meetings should be limited as much as possible and the size of the meeting should be reduced to allow for attendees to stay the recommended 6-foot distance apart.
  • All facilities have received approval from the regional sanitation officer to use bleach during facility cleaning. Additional soap is being provided for prisoners and in the bathrooms. Cleaning products are available to clean commonly-used areas and phones before and after use.
  • Facility healthcare staff will meet with prisoners who have presented with symptoms of coronavirus. The MDOC does not make the diagnosis of the coronavirus. The department is following the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services protocol. If a prisoner has symptoms and meets the criteria for testing, the MDOC will seek permission from the local health department in the county the prison is in to conduct a test utilizing a test kit. A limited number of test kits have distributed to all MDOC facilities, but can only be used after the MDHHS authorizes the test.
  • As the state works to limit the spread of the virus, we caution employees not to let fear lead to discriminatory actions against any individuals based on their disability, race or ethnicity. If you have experienced or witnessed discriminatory harassment or discrimination, we want you to know it will not be tolerated and we strongly encourage you to report it by calling the MDOC Equal Employment Opportunity Office at 1–800–326–4537, 517–335–3654, or by contacting MDOC EEO Officer Toya Williams at 517–335–4125 or williamst8@michigan.gov.

Suspended or Postponed Events

The MDOC, like many other large organizations, is taking steps to protect staff, family members, prisoners and visitors by suspending or postponing large-scale events, including the following events. We will continue to notify staff of additional suspended or postponed events as decisions are made.

The March 16 Lansing recruitment open house.

The March 20 Corrections Officer Academy graduation in Lansing.

The March 27 Wayne County Returning Citizen Job Fair.

The March 28 One Day With God camp at Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia.

The May 5 Employee Appreciation Banquet and Warden’s Meeting

The Corrections Officer Academies scheduled to begin in April in the Upper Peninsula and in Lower Peninsula have been postponed.

Most training, other than firearms requalification, has been postponed.


UPDATE: Visitation Restrictions

In an effort to protect the health of staff, prisoners and the public, the MDOC suspended visitation at ALL correctional facilities statewide.

This also includes outside volunteers and other tours and groups who routinely come into the prisons.

“This was not a decision we arrived at lightly, as we understand and recognize the importance of family contact with the prison population,” said MDOC Director Heidi Washington. “Our primary concern has to be public safety and reducing the number of people who enter our facilities is a key factor in limiting the potential spread of this illness into our prisoner population.”

The department will monitor the situation to determine when visits will be restored.

During the period without visits, the department worked with GTL and JPay to provide enhanced services for prisoners to communicate with family and friends. GTL has offered two free, five-minute phone calls each week and JPay is offering two free stamps per week. Both these measures began Tuesday, March 17.

For staff working in the facilities, all will be asked a series of screening questions and will have their temperature checked before being allowed entrance into the prison. For those with a temperature above 100.4, they will not be allowed to work.

Information on prevention has been provided to the prison population and MDOC staff. For the past week, facilities have undergone additional and more frequent cleaning of the prisons.

Staff and visitors can also access information about their facility by signing up for Nixle alerts. To sign up for Nixle alerts, go to www.michigan.gov/corrections and select the page for the correctional facility in your area to register via the Nixle Widget, or text the zip code of the facility you would like to receive updates from to 888777.

A press release on visiting restrictions was sent out statewide on March 13. You can find a full version of that release here.


What it is

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people, and others, such as canine and feline coronaviruses, only infect animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses that infect animals have emerged to infect people and can spread between people. This is suspected to have occurred for the virus that causes COVID-19. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are two other examples of coronaviruses that originated from animals and then spread to people.

SARS-CoV-2 is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. This virus causes the disease of COVID-19. The virus causing COVID-19 is not the same as the coronavirus that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

This virus was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person-to-person. It’s important to note that person-to-person spread can happen on a continuum. Some viruses are highly contagious (like measles), while other viruses are less so.

Transmission: The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in some affected geographic areas. Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person via respiratory droplets, resembling the spread of influenza.

It would be spread by:

The air by coughing and sneezing.

Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands.

Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.

It is possible that a person can contract COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses may survive on surfaces for just a few hours or several days. Many factors will influence this, including surface material and weather.

Symptoms: People who have been diagnosed with 2019 Novel Coronavirus have reported symptoms that may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure to the virus. Most cases are occurring approximately five days after exposure. Symptoms consist of fever, cough, and difficulty breathing (shortness of breath). Pneumonia appears to be the most frequent serious manifestation of infection. Older people and people of all ages with severe underlying health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, seem to be at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness.

Prevention: Steps you can take to prevent spread of flu and the common cold will also help prevent 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

Wash your hands often with soap and water. If not available, use hand sanitizer.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing

Stay home if you are sick.

CDC does not currently recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.

Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, keyboards, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.

No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time.

Additional information and resources can be found at the CDC, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), and World Health Organization (WHO):


Informational Posters

These posters from the CDC regarding coronavirus (COVID-19) have been distributed to worksites across the department.

MI Dept. of Corrections

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The Michigan Department of Corrections provides the greatest amount of public protection while making the most efficient use of the State's resources.

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