The world is experiencing the pain and suffering of this pandemic. Businesses are forced to close due to sickness and being understaffed, supplies are in high demand due to shipping shortages, hospitals are undersupplied, overcrowded, and understaffed. Basically everything is experiencing lack and limit, distress and difficulty, as we strive to maintain and survive through these trying times. While everything is being affected in a negative way, failures are inevitable, and for the most part where the aftereffects have stagnated the value of life and the rights of individuals, humanity has responded to save and protect those lives and rights, billions of dollars have been allocated to alleviate the suffering, and countless measures have been enacted. That is, except for the MDOC.
Before the pandemic, those inside the MDOC were suffering from neglect. They were ignored, and treated as if they were unworthy of humane treatment and living conditions. As everything else has gotten worse due to the pandemic the world over, the MDOC is no different. The only difference is, the world over, those in charge are trying to alleviate the suffering caused by the pandemic, while the MDOC is only gladly taking the money. The MDOC is even ensuring that COVID stays as a condition, through a herd immunity mentality and neglect of proper protocol and procedures for COVID, while they have done almost nothing to alleviate the wrongs that have occurred due to COVID.
The MDOC, prosecutors, and the courts have been ignoring time-sensitive limits for courts and hearings and keeping people past their outdates, with no recourse or redress. They gladly accept the COVID conditions of no rights for prisoners because it allows them to be lazy. But where human life and rights are in danger, this cannot be allowed to continue.
Fifty-two percent of prison admissions in Michigan are parole or probation violators, a statistic that in and of itself is mind blowing. Now take away their right to have trials and hearings for indeterminate amounts of time and what you have is a lot of “innocent-until-proven-guilty” people locked up literally for years. If on parole, none of the time counts toward time served. This also means that their parole violation hearing, which is supposed to be held within 45 days, is put on hold awaiting the outcome of a trial that may not happen for years to come, even though by state and constitutional due process laws it is supposed to happen within 180 days.
There are thousands of people within the MDOC and jails suffering from this, as well as their families. Yet the courts, the MDOC, and prosecutors are doing nothing to remedy any of it. They use COVID as an excuse for the long delays, as if COVID is the reason for not being able to hold public hearings due to COVID, when in fact all hearings except for trials are held through Zoom on a video screen.
Yet COVID has still been used as an excuse to violate my own time limitations. For arraignment, instead of 48 hours, mine took 12 days. My preliminary exam that is supposed to happen within 12 days after arraignment took 6 months. Six months is the court-ruled amount of time they have to be finished with the whole process, trial and all. With 3 pre-trials, all by Zoom, and still not having reached trial, I’ve now been incarcerated for over 460 days. How is this due to COVID, when the only in-person impediment to the process comes at the trial stage and everything else occurs over a video screen? Up until last month, no one involved–prosecutor, judge, lawyer, or witness–caught COVID except me, so the excuse that COVID prevented people from being timely doesn’t hold weight. Since all other proceedings are held from the comfort of the homes of all the other parties involved, and require nothing that threatened public safety, there is no reason these proceedings should be taking years to get to, yet nothing is being done about it. And defendants are still expected to meet all our deadlines, so why isn’t anyone else?
A person who was depended upon as a member of a household–a father, mother, husband, wife, son or daughter, who contributed and is depended on to maintain the welfare of their families’ dynamic and livelihood–just snatched off the street on a moment’s notice, thrown in prison or jail for years without a chance to prove their innocence. This affects more than just that person, it affects the whole household, it affects the amount of food coming in to the household, it overburdens the household in all ways, so countless families are affected by this. It stands to reason that the time limitations set up by law were enacted to protect people from such things, because to go past them must have been agreed to be unconstitutional. So tell me why now these constitutional violations are just being ignored.
Please help me call attention to this miscarriage of justice. Speak out, speak against these unconstitutional acts, hold courts, prosecutors, parole boards, and officials accountable. Help us, help our families get their loved ones back. A family is already pressed by COVID, and should be able to deal with its stresses together. And by the way, for anyone who feels like “well, you shouldn’t have done whatever it was you did,” please remember the people I’m speaking for and about haven’t been found guilty of anything yet, but for the most part have done a prison term already while awaiting their day in court.