Spring 2020 Newsletter


We are wishing you and your loved ones health and hope as we continue to face the ongoing effects of Covid-19 in Michigan. The number of cases in Detroit has been staggering, and our hearts go out to everyone who has lost a loved one during this time. While we may hear calls for a “return to normalcy,” we know that the status quo has left far too many people in dangerous situations, whether that be incarceration, food and housing insecurity, water shutoffs, unemployment or lack of access to adequate care. The need to build truly just cities and communities has never been more evident.
As we celebrate our second year as an organization, we are finding hope in “the impossible.” For years, we have been told that decarceration is impossible. Yet this week we saw the Wayne County Jail population decrease to 953 people, down 430 from March 10th.  The Macomb County Jail population has also dropped below 500, and just yesterday we learned that Macomb County is scrapping their plans to build a new jail. With far too many incarcerated folks sick and at risk, we know there’s still much more work to be done, and we are incredibly grateful to our comrades who continue to fight for “the impossible” alongside us.


Prison and Jail Releases:

– Since our last update, you may have seen op-eds calling for the immediate release of incarcerated people by our Founding ED, Amanda Alexander, and our Legal Director, Desiree Ferguson, in the Free Press and Deadline Detroit respectively. While we continue to put public pressure on elected officials, our attorneys are also continuing their work filing individual release motions. Our attorneys are filing motions and representing clients via Zoom, and have won the release of many individuals in Macomb County and Wayne County. The Bail Project team also continues to bail folks out across Michigan, including one client who was released last weekend.
– We co-hosted a Day of Action with our partners at Michigan Liberation to keep the pressure on for jail and prison releases. People signed up for shifts all day to call and email the Governor, judges, sheriffs, and prosecutors and encourage them to implement statewide COVID-19 Rapid Response Demands.
– We are working in partnership with American Friends Service Committee’s Michigan Criminal Justice Program, Citizens for Prison Reform, Family Advisory Board, Humanity for Prisoners, MI-CURE, Michigan Liberation, Michigan Prisoner Rehabilitation Credit Act, Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service, Inc., National Association of Social Workers-Michigan, and Nation Outside to encourage Governor Whitmer to use her power to ensure people stuck in prison are prioritized during this time. You can find the letter DJC signed onto here.

– Last Friday we released a statement with Neighborhood Defender Service calling on the Detroit Police Department to place a moratorium on low-level arrests. Our hope is that this’ll help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep more people from being booked into the jails. 
– We are discussing possible courses of action to address courts that are still requiring people to show up in person to post bond. The Michigan Supreme Court has issued a number of administrative orders instructing courts and judges to “make a good faith effort to conduct proceedings remotely whenever possible.”
Evictions and Foreclosures:

– We signed onto a letter from the Michigan Poverty Law Program calling for a statewide moratorium on residential mortgage foreclosures and an extension of Executive Order 2020-19, which is due to expire on 4/17 (next Friday). The letter was also signed by the Center for Civil Justice. – The federal government has placed a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions for federally-backed mortgages (for 60 days, starting from March 18th). Unfortunately, about 1/3rd of mortgages aren’t covered by this moratorium, and so it’s extremely important for the state government to step in. – Since Gov. Whitmer issued the statewide moratorium, we’ve been talking with her office regularly about strengthening protections for renters, extending the moratorium beyond 4/17, and including mortgage and rent payment freezes as well.
Our Ongoing Work:

– Our Economic Equity Practice has been helping our nonprofit and cooperative business clients with all sorts of contract drafting and trademark research, as of late. They are also working with one of our community land trust clients to build their board of directors and file for their federal tax exemption.  Along with Legal Services, our Economic Equity team were also recently guests in Prof. Judith Scully’s Social Justice Advocacy and the Law class. 
– Our Community Legal Workers were successful in getting 100% of our clients’ property assessments lowered at the March board of review and are now finalizing the data. They are currently crafting a survey/check-in to find out how our clients have been affected by Covid-19.  

– Campaigns and Advocacy (C&A) has been busy this past few weeks supporting efforts around Michigan’s Black Mama’s Day Bailout. With the rise of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Michigan jails, we need to get community members out as quickly as possible and into safe areas where they have access to adequate healthcare, housing, and other basic resources that we know keep us safe. If you would like to donate to this bailout effort, please do so here. 

C&A is working with partners to figure out where SNAP food assistance benefits stand for people with criminal records during this time and are laying the groundwork to expand access for folks who are currently prohibited from using SNAP due to the type of crime they were convicted of.

C&A is still working with organizations across Michigan to ensure that the Task Force recommendations that came out of the Jail and Pretrial Task Force are turned into progressive legislation that focuses on decarceration. We will continue showing up in these spaces to ensure the recommendations go as far as they can. As the legislature is not in session, Clean Slate continues to be stalled. We will keep you updated with ways to plug in and get this passed as soon as possible.

Finally, we’re continuing to lay the ground for community reinvestment in Detroit. We know that now more than ever, Detroiters deserve to have money divested from the criminal punishment system and invested in our community’s health and safety. 


  1. For general resource inquiries: https://www.mi211.org/ or call 2-1-1

  2. Councilman Jame Tate’s office compiled a list of resources having to do with Food, Business, Employment/Financial, and Health https://www.jamestated1.com/covid-19-resources

  3.  City of Detroit has compiled resources for:

    1. Where to get tested for coronavirus? –  https://detroitmi.gov/departments/detroit-health-department/programs-and-services/communicable-disease/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-community-care-network-drive-thru-testing

    2. Employment – https://detroitatwork.com/

    3. Water – https://detroitmi.gov/departments/customer-care/water-and-sewerage-department/coronavirus-covid-19-water-restart-plan

    4. Food – https://detroitmi.gov/departments/detroit-health-department/programs-and-services/communicable-disease/coronavirus-covid-19/covid-19-city-resources#food

    5. Questions about bus services? – https://detroitmi.gov/news/temporary-ddot-schedule-effective-3232020

  4. Detroit Based Covid-19 community mutual aid (food, housing, employment, financial hardships, health, emotional and spiritual, etc.) support,  – https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-m6QBgqejlk2h6uJ0WGkphZuZ5MR3-uWCkv2vSZcHY8/edit#gid=1727309836

  5. Metro Detroit Covid-19 facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2554127328195074/

  6. Metro Detroit Covid-19 Parent and Student facebook resource sharing page:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/233646601012311/?source_id=923217404406088.

  7. Covid-19 people in prison connector pod: https://www.facebook.com/groups/153621159132515/

  8. SADO resource for advocates and attorneys working with folks affected by the criminal legal system during covid-19 http://www.sado.org/Articles/Article/759

  9. Food:

    1. Food location updates daily:   https://codtableau.detroitmi.gov/t/DPW/views/FoodResourceDashboard/FoodResourcesMap?:embed=y#1

    2. Gleaners free food distribution site: https://www.gcfb.org/community-distribution-sites/

    3. Focus: Hope food for seniors – https://www.focushope.edu/food-for-seniors/

  10. Water:

    1. We the People Detroit water pickup sites – https://www.wethepeopleofdetroit.com/get-help

Our Birthday

DJC celebrated our second birthday last week. We received a $10,000 Covid-19 Rapid Response Grant, which we are giving to the following five groups who are providing critical aid and supplies to Detroiters during this public health crisis. For our birthday, we’d love for you to support them as well.

1) We the People of Detroit – Water warriors have been fighting for water as a human right for many years. During this crisis, despite the moratorium on water shutoffs, lack of water access still presents additional risks for thousands of people, and they are working tirelessly to restore water to Detroiters.
2) Returning Citizens COVID-19 Support Fund – As more people are being released from jails and prisons, this group is assisting returning citizens with critical rent, food, utilities, and medical needs.
3) Mutual Aid Fund to Provide Coronavirus Care Packages to People in Prison – We’ve been joining the call to release people from prison, and in the meantime, this mutual aid fundraiser is helping incarcerated people get coronavirus care packages to keep themselves as healthy as possible while government officials turn away.
4) ABISA – This essential mutual aid fund to help Black/African migrants and refugees with food, utilities, housing, water and other needs.
5) Michigan Black Mama’s Day Bailout – This year’s Mama’s Day Bailout is especially critical given the dire health risks posed to incarcerated people. Donations will go toward bailing out Mamas in Wayne, Oakland and Kalamazoo counties.