“Until you and your fellow legislators get out of this building and go into the prisons to make surprise visits…you’re allowing a terrible situation to get worse…and you’re not going to be adequately representing those of us who elected you to public office!”
That's what I told a group of Michigan state lawmakers this morning. I was testifying before the House Appropriations Sub-Committee on Corrections at the state capitol.
“You can sit here and discuss dollars, and you can decide that corrections budgets should be increased or decreased…but you’re missing the point. We’re talking about people: people like your kids and mine!”
I was the second person to testify in the packed hearing room.
As President of HFP, I gave specific examples of prisoner abuse and lack of healthcare, especially among the mentally ill. I named names and specifically listed certain prisons where the problems are acute.
Two mothers of prisoners made emotional appeals to the committee for improvement in prison care of the mentally ill, citing numerous examples of neglect and inefficiency.
Committee Chair Representative Alma Wheeler Smith, a democratic contender for Governor, responded by saying the committee should take a closer look at this problem, because, she said, some of these cases could result in lawsuits. “If we don’t,” she said, “we may find that we’re being penny-wise and pound-foolish.”
State Representative Fred Durhal, Jr., of Detroit, who has two state prisons in his district, was visibly upset. “I find this testimony very disturbing,” he said after I spoke, “and I’m going to do something about it!”