Ionia’s Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility is experiencing a COVID-19 variant outbreak. A national journalist and author researching prison conditions says this is an alarming situation.
This month, the Michigan State Police announced that COVID-19 testing of 95 individuals at Ionia’s Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility revealed 90 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant - 88 of them inmates – two others prison employees.
“It spreads like wildfire, you know, all these prisons. Bellamy has a huge problem.”
Brandon Stickney spent 19-months in prison. He’s the author of the book, The Five People You’ll Meet in Prison. A prison researcher and journalist, he cites The Marshall Project, a nonprofit U.S. criminal justice system news organization currently tracking COVID-19 cases. It says at least 275,000 inmates have been infected across the country with more than 1,700 deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the B.1.1.7 variant spreads more easily.
Stinkney’s concern are prisons designs. “They’re purposely small. There’s no place for the inmates to go…they are manufacturing houses for spreading COVID, prisons are, that’s why we need to be concerned about them. If you live 20 miles away, there’s still people who work there who are going to bring it into your community.”
Chris Gautz is Public Information Officer for the Michigan Department of Corrections. He tells us staff are wearing full Personal Protective Equipment and assigned to specific housing units where prisoner have also been placed in cohorts. Inmates must wear cloth masks and at meal time it’s two to a table enforcing social distancing. Everything is disinfected before the next housing unit enters.
Still, Stickney is concerned the variant can’t be contained and any prison’s medical system will be overrun.