A Michigan prisoner died from coronavirus just weeks before his parole.
Sentenced as a juvenile, William Garrison served nearly 44 years of his sentence before succumbing to the virus. Garrison’s bunkmate found him struggling to breathe on Monday night in their two-man cell at Macomb Correctional Facility.’
Garrison was charged with life in prison after a 1976 home invasion resulted in Garrison shooting and killing a man at the age of 16. His sentence was cut in half in January, and he was offered the choice of an immediate release on parole or release without parole in September.
Garrison chose the latter.
Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Chris Gautz issued a statement to the Detroit Free Press regarding Garrison’s passing.
Gautz claimed the prison staff went cell to cell to assess prisoners in the days before Garrison died, and Garrison’s bunkmate claimed he did not suffer from any COVID-19 symptoms besides a cough.
But Garrison’s sister, who was preparing for him to live with her following his release in early May, disputes their accounts of events.
“My brother shouldn’t have died in there like that,” Yolanda Peterson told the Detroit Free Press. “He was trying to get free.”
Garrison had appealed for an early release to avoid the COVID-19 outbreak at Macomb. Gautz claimed a post-mortem autopsy confirmed Garrison had coronavirus, while a test confirmed that Garrison’s bunkmate was negative.
Gautz called the situation “unfortunate all the way around,” noting that Garrison could have paroled earlier this year.
As of Sunday, Michigan has seen at least 30,791 confirmed coronavirus cases and 2,308 deaths. Michigan has recently seen a drop in new cases, falling from the third-most infected state to the fifth-most over the past few days.
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