A Michigan inmate, who was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder at the age of 16, but became eligible for parole after 44 years passed away from COVID-19 weeks before he was set to be released.
According to CNN, William Garrison, 60, who passed away last week, had been locked up since 1976 for fatally shooting a victim during an armed robbery. He was initially offered parole by the Department of Corrections early this year but he “refused to leave prison,” Chris Gautz, a spokesperson for the department said.
Garrison rather opted to serve his maximum sentence so he wouldn’t have to be monitored or supervised by a parole officer when he was released.
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“He did not want to be on parole, he wanted to wait and just walk out completely free from supervision in September,” Gautz said.
The outbreak of coronavirus in the prison and his vulnerability to contracting it due to his age, later caused him to change his mind and accept parole when it was once again offered to him some weeks ago.
“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 told CNN.
Before Garrison could be released, however, he was to be further held for a mandatory 28-day waiting period, but the department requested prosecutors for a waiver. Garrison died five days after the request on April 13 and before a response from the prosecutor’s office.
Gautz said Garrison did not show any COVID-19 symptoms and did not complain of any illness before his death.
“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.”
Speaking to the Detroit Free Press, Garrison’s sister, Yolanda Peterson, however, said prison authorities could have prevented him from getting infected with the virus as other inmates told her her brother’s cellmate was unwell several days before he died.
The department, however, refuted her claims, saying all inmates underwent health checks before Garrison’s death and his cellmate did not complain of any COVID-19 symptoms besides a cough. They also claim Garrison’s cellmate was tested for the virus but the result came out negative.
Over 520 Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) inmates have so far tested positive for the virus and 21 of them, including Garrison, have so far died at the time this article was written.