• By Lisa Brody

Sheriff works to decrease county jail population

In an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard's office prepared two lists of low level offenders to submit to judges to request early release, with 60 of the 167 inmates listed released so far. Bouchard, on Thursday, April 2, stated that two inmates have tested positive for coronavirus, with several others quarantined because of proximity. He said there are several tests for the virus currently outstanding, and status is changing hour by hour. “Obviously, a correctional facility is not built for segregation,” he said, noting members of his correctional team “are superstars. They are used to doing heavy lifting, but to see them face the occasion is Herculean.” In order to bring down the population at Oakland County Jail and have more room, he said they “took a very thoughtful approach, making two different lists. One, if they were in for a non-violent offense, and did they have a history of violence. If no, then we looked at their medical history. We have some people going out for dialysis twice a week.” If they also were in for a misdemeanor, they were put on a list. The second list was comprised of people in for a misdemeanor, with no violence in their current charge or in their past, and a bond lower than $1,000, which they had not been able to post. “We created a list of 167 people for both of those parameters,” Bouchard said, to be reviewed by a circuit court or district court judge. “Only a judge can modify a sentence and release a prisoner.” He said by their last update, 60 inmates had been released, with 107 still in jail. They have sent an update email to the clerks to ask them to review the status again, he said. The work by Oakland County Sheriff's Office is in line with recommendations from top law enforcement and courts around the state. “The Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration applauds the local, county, and state responses to curb the spread of COVID-19 by safely reducing jail populations. In these unprecedented times, the task force urges justice system decision-makers to continue taking all necessary actions to keep our communities safe through arrest alternatives, de-incarceration as appropriate, and social distancing,” according to a release from the co-chairs of the task force, Chief Justice Bridget M. McCormack, Michigan Supreme Court, and Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist, II, on Wednesday, April 1.

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