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Lawsuit seeks widespread virus testing in Michigan prisons

April 30, 2020 GMT

DETROIT (AP) — Lawyers are seeking testing for all Michigan prisoners and staff as well as other steps to protect them from the highly contagious coronavirus.

A lawsuit, proposed as a class action, was filed Wednesday against the state Corrections Department. At least 41 prisoners have died of complications from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.

“When you put people in prison, you take away their ability to take care of themselves. If you take away that ability, you have to provide care for them,” attorney Kevin Ernst said.

Michigan has roughly 38,000 prisoners but has tested only 3,100 so far, according to statistics posted online Wednesday night. Forty-five percent tested positive.

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The hot spots are Lakeland prison in Branch County and Parnall prison in Jackson County where 23 men became ill and died.

Besides widespread testing, the lawsuit seeks free disinfectant supplies and soap, personal protection equipment, a 6-foot buffer between prisoners and other remedies.

“Most of what is contained in this lawsuit are things the department has already been doing, and another request – to let out low-level prisoners to home confinement – would cause us to violate state law,” Corrections Department spokesman Chris Gautz said.

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