State News

Michigan Prison Union Wants Corrections Director Gone Over Handling of Covid

August 27, 2020, 5:13 PM

Heidi Washington

The Michigan corrections officers union is calling for the removal of state prison director Heidi Washington because of her handling of staff issues during the pandemic.

"The Michigan Corrections Organization will be submitting a vote of no confidence to the Michigan Legislature and governor’s office regarding your continued appointment as Director," union president Byron Osborn says in a letter to Washington, the Detroit Free Press reports.

"We believe that we have done our part in trying to work with you on issues and offer solutions. Unfortunately, we are at a point where the current work conditions are unacceptable for our members."

As of last week, more than 440 staff members had tested positive, and three died. Nearly 5,200 inmates have tested positive, according to the latest state figures, and 70 have died. 

According to the Freep, these are among the union's concerns:

  • Unsafe staffing levels, made worse by officer infections and quarantines related to the coronavirus.

  • Refusal to grant paid leave for mandated quarantine periods related to the coronavirus, forcing officers to use sick and annual leave that they need for actual illness and vacations.

  • Requiring members of the absconder recovery unit and transportation officers to work at various prisons during the pandemic, "forcing them to live in hotels and ignoring their seniority and family situations."

Whitmer expressed support for Washington, who issued a statement:

"The department is committed to protecting the health, safety, and well-being of people under our supervision — both in prison and in the community — and our staff, who are working hard every day." 

Read more:  Detroit Free Press

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