FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
DETROIT, Mich. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) and attorney Michael L. Steinberg won an emergency appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals on behalf of Moneasha Ferguson, who was incarcerated without bail during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms. Ferguson was being held in jail for the sole reason that she arrived at court 20 minutes late due to public transportation delays. Ms. Ferguson’s bail appeal was filed on March 20, 2020. The Michigan Court of Appeals acted swiftly, agreeing that Ms. Ferguson should have been released in light of the pandemic and instructing Oakland County Circuit Judge Leo Bowman to release her immediately.
“Jailing Ms. Ferguson under these circumstances was egregious as it put her health and wellbeing at risk given the current COVID-19 pandemic,” said ACLU of Michigan Senior Staff Attorney Phil Mayor, who filed the appeal. “Needlessly locking her up is exactly what health experts and the Michigan Supreme Court said should not be happening as it puts everyone in jail, including jail staff, at risk of becoming gravely ill, as well as posing a serious risk to the health of the general public. The Court of Appeals’ order sends a strong message to other courts and jails: most people who have not even been convicted of a crime during this global health crisis should be immediately released.”
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic The Michigan Supreme Court issued the following order to lower courts:
“During the state of emergency, trial courts should be mindful that taking reasonable steps to protect the public is more important than strict adherence to normal operating procedures or time guideline standards. The Court encourages trial courts to cooperate as much as possible with the efforts of the Governor and other state and local officials to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
As a result of the emergency appeal, Ms. Ferguson was released on Tuesday, March 24, 2020.
“We are thrilled that Ms. Ferguson was released from jail and allowed to return to her home and practice social distancing measures which are critical to ensuring a healthy community,” said ACLU of Michigan Legal Director Dan Korobkin, “However, there are still thousands of vulnerable Michiganders who are sitting in jails and prisons who pose no threat and should be released immediately. This includes pre-trial detainees, medically frail people, and people whose sentences are nearly completed. Releasing people who are needlessly locked up before COVID-19 spreads through crowded jails and prisons will save lives.”