William Garrison, a Michigan man who was just weeks away from his release after serving 44 years in prison, has died from COVID-19.
According to MLive, Garrison, 60, passed away on Monday, April 13, after being sent to the hospital. On Friday, Macomb Correctional Facility officials confirmed that a postmortem test revealed that Garrison had contracted the deadly virus.
Michigan Department of Corrections spokesperson Chris Gautz told the news site that Garrison had not mentioned that he was having any symptoms to either prison officials or his family.
Five days prior to his death, prison officials had tried to ensure his release.
Garrison was sentenced at the age of 16 to life in prison after being convicted of first-degree murder in a 1976 shooting. Due to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2016 that mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of murder be applied retroactively, Garrison was resentenced in January and was offered parole in February.
According to Gautz, Garrison refused, saying that he wanted to serve the remainder of his sentence (about seven months) so that he would be able to walk completely free, without the need for parole.
Once the coronavirus began to unfold, officials once again offered Garrison parole, this time he accepted and the prison immediately issued his parole. Officials requested that the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office waive the mandatory 28-day waiting period, given the circumstances.
However, five days after officials requested Garrison’s release, before the prosecutor’s office responded, he died.
“It’s just sad that he stayed in and we tried to get him out, but we just didn’t hear back in time to let him get out soon enough,” Gautz said. “It’s incredibly sad.”
Across the nation, prison officials have been seeking to reduce the population of those incarcerated due to the unique risks it poses to people in the facilities, which are often overcrowded and underserved and where access to health care leaves much to be desired.
ESSENCE is committed to bringing our audience the latest facts about COVID-19 (coronavirus). Our content team is closely monitoring the developing details surrounding the virus via official sources and health care experts, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Please continue to refresh ESSENCE’s informational hub for updates on COVID-19, as well as tips for taking care of yourselves, your families and your communities.