Some male prisoners who test positive but are then cleared as noncontagious are sent by the Michigan Department of Corrections to the Gus Harrison Correctional Facility.

The 2,362-bed prison, where Larry Smith is housed, is in Adrian, a small city about 70 miles southwest of Detroit. There, they are quarantined in a 120-bed “step-down unit” until after they test negative.

Within days of officials opening the step-down unit at Gus Harrison, the virus surfaced in the prison’s general population.

Smith, who is asthmatic and immunocompromised, worries it was introduced into  the general population by corrections officers traveling between the two prison wings and has filed a complaint to the prison’s warden about it.



Many of the 50 Michigan state prisoners who have died of COVID-19 were never going to get out alive.

Twenty-two were serving life without parole and others had sentences so long that they were likely to die behind bars, according to a Target 8 analysis of the deaths.

But at least 17 were likely to have gotten out eventually. COVID-19 was their death sentence.



The last time Debra Matthews spoke to her brother, a nurse held the phone to his ear as he lay in a hospital bed on a ventilator.

John Thompson, 64, had COVID-19 and had been on life support for nearly two weeks after becoming ill at Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater. Over the phone from her home in Indianapolis on May 2, Matthews encouraged her older brother to keep fighting.

“I was still hopeful,” she said. “I had spoken with one of his doctors, and they were looking for the plasma antibodies for him.”

Thompson died two days later.

Reflecting now, Matthews realizes her brother was tired. He was tired from illness that had plagued him in recent years. Tired from 37 years in prison.

Thompson is among 49 state prisoners who have died of complications of COVID-19.


COVID19 ALERT: Cases Double In Michigan Prisons

LANSING — The number of coronavirus cases in Michigan prisons spiked over the weekend to at least 58, plus one parolee, with four Michigan prisons emerging as hot spots.

The Michigan Department of Corrections reported 20 positive prisoner tests for COVID-19 at Parnall Correctional Facility near Jackson, 16 at Macomb Correctional Facility in Lenox Township, and seven each at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility near Ypsilanti and Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, which has a geriatric unit.

The 58 prisoner cases is more than double the 24 cases reported on Friday.