Michigan inmate dies of COVID-19 just weeks before release

Jailed since he was 16, William Garrison had almost completed his sentence.

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An inmate in Michigan has died of COVID-19 just weeks before he was set to be released.

The Detroit Free Press reported that William Garrison, 60, died last week of the virus after spending 44 years in prison. He was convicted of first-degree murder at the age of 16 for a shooting during a 1976 armed robbery and was set to be released in early May.

READ MORE: Michigan girl, 5, becomes state’s first child to die of coronavirus 

Garrison’s bunkmate found him struggling to breathe last Monday at the Macomb Correctional Facility, according to the Detroit Free Press. Staff performed CPR and he was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Garrison’s sister, Yolanda Peterson, charged the prison with negligence. Peterson alleged that other men in the prison told her that Garrison’s cellmate was sick for days.

“My brother shouldn’t have died in there like that,” she told the outlet.

Chris Gautz, a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections, said that they “tried to parole him earlier this year, and he refused to leave prison.”

Gautz added that Garrison wanted to serve his maximum time and not be under supervision as a free man.

“He did not want to be on parole, he wanted to wait and just walk out completely free from supervision in September,” Gautz said.

However, Garrison reconsidered after the parole board offered to release him three weeks ago. They were concerned about him possibly contracting the disease.

“We came back to him and told him we would still like to parole him given his age and our concern with him getting the virus,” Gautz said.

The Department of Corrections also stated that they requested that the prosecutor’s office waive the mandatory 28-day waiting period but he died on April 13.  At the time of his death, Garrison had not complained about feeling sick.

“He had not had any symptoms he reported to us, and our nursing staff had been going cell to cell, checking with prisoners if they were OK, and he was fine,” Gautz said.

READ MORE: Harlem church mourns nine members dead of coronavirus 

Garrison was tested for COVID-19 after he died and is now one of 17 state prisoners known to have passed away from the virus.

(Photo: Michigan Dept. Of Corrections)

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