A union representing Michigan prison officers has called for the removal of Corrections Department Director Heidi Washington due to the state’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic inside prisons.
According to a letter obtained by the Detroit Free Press, the Michigan Corrections Organization says it has lost confidence in Michigan leadership.
“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 said in the letter. “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.”
Osborn specifically cited unsafe staffing levels, refusal to grant paid leave for mandatory quarantine periods, failure to extend hazard pay and a refusal to accurately report prisoner disturbances, among other reasons, according to the Detroit Free Press. Osborn also criticized the department’s media spokesperson for “making reckless comments in the media placing blame on employees for introducing the virus into the prisons,” as well as a failure to use a new wellness unit to address high numbers of mental health issues among employees.
Whitmer said in April that she has “great confidence” in Washington and other corrections officers.
— MichiganDOC (@MichiganDOC) April 3, 2020
The state prison system has seen more than 5,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 69 deaths, according to data from the Michigan Department of Corrections. The state has tested more than 37,000 prisoners and received more than 32,000 negative tests.
The system has more than 37,000 prisoners in it, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Washington originally was appointed as the department’s director in 2015, under then-Gov. Rick Snyder. She was re-appointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2018.
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Jordyn Pair is a reporter at The Michigan Star and Star News Digital Media. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected]