Recommended Procedure to Request Release of People Incarcerated in Wayne County Jail – in light of COVID-19 danger

INTRODUCTION / May 22, 2020

Sisters and Brothers: Ever since the coronavirus hit Michigan, attorney members of our NLG Chapter have been involved in a number of efforts all over the state to secure the release of people from jails and prisons in Michigan. One effort has involved the ongoing Wayne County Jail (WCJ) lawsuit, which is the longest running lawsuit in Wayne Circuit Court history. NLG lawyers filed this lawsuit against the Wayne County Jail in 1971, alleging a wide variety of unconstitutional conditions of incarceration, including jail overcrowding. As a result, the Wayne County Sheriff has entered into a consent order, which is still in effect, which permits the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court to exercise supervisory authority over the jail population, and to order the release of inmates to relieve jail overcrowding, through a process called Administrative Jail Release (AJR). As soon as the current pandemic hit, NLG attorneys Deb Choly and Bill Goodman quickly responded, representing the people incarcerated in Wayne County Jail through the jail lawsuit, and began pressing the Circuit Court for them to be released. In addition, many criminal defense attorneys, including a number who are members of the NLG, have been filing motions for bond reduction to obtain the release of as many people in WCJ as possible. As a result of these efforts, over the last four months, the WCJ population has been reduced by approximately 400 inmates, to the lowest number in decades. The latest information that we have received about the recommended procedure for attorneys to utilize to most effectively seek the reduction of the bonds of people in jail is set forth below by Deb Choly. Please feel free to share this information as widely as possible.

John Royal, President, Detroit & Michigan National Lawyers Guild Chapter


During the COVID-19 pandemic, the criminal defense bar has developed and is using various motions to reduce bond or otherwise seek the release of their clients who are housed at the Wayne County Jail, due to the pandemic. At the same time, counsel for the inmates of the WCJ in Wayne County Jail Inmates,, v Lucas,, (Attorneys Bill Goodman and Deborah Choly) have been working to get inmates released through the Administrative Jail Release (AJR) process that the jail uses. That process is heard before Chief Judge Timothy Kenny, as the judge in the WCJ Inmates case. We have been able to get over 200 people released on an emergency basis.

Judge Kenny has indicated that any person who has recently had a motion to reduce bond denied will not be considered for AJR. Strategically, then, it is better to have an inmate considered for AJR first; if they are denied by Judge Kenny, trial counsel may then pursue release by way of a motion to reduce bond. That way, the client gets two chances of being released.

SADO has been given a limited appointment to pursue motions for people who have already been sentenced and are serving terms of incarceration in the jail (and no longer have trial counsel).

Judge Kenny has asked for the following information for people requesting Administrative Jail Release:

  • Name
  • date of birth
  • charges
  • bond amount
  • If there are any other holds/writs for the client; and if so, what is the hold for (charges)?
  • Are there any medical issues, especially if they make the client more vulnerable to COVID-19?
  • If released, where would the client live? - not actual address, but with family, own home, or homeless, e.g.

If emails to Deb Choly have all this information, she and Bill Goodman can try to get them considered more quickly. 
Thanks, Deborah Choly