Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Absence does NOT make the heart grow fonder

Some people I know in the prisoner advocacy business are trying to come up with hard data on just how important family visits are to prisoners. It is their belief that frequent visits by loved ones not only contribute to mental and physical well-being, but actually enhance the rehabilitation process. They're hoping to find data to prove all of this.

One of the reasons these people want this information is to strengthen their position when arguing with the state about where prisoners should be located. We can't prove this, but it seems that transfer is one form of punishment for prisoners who get in trouble. If they do something wrong, they get sent to some distant facility where it's very difficult for the prisoners' next of kin and closest friends to visit them. So the guy sits in a God-forsaken place alone, and lonely.

One of the sad spin-offs of this alleged punishment is that it often is a direct punishment to the parents or the fiancee' or the dear friend or sibling. We knew of a prisoner in one of the facilities in Ionia who did something to displease the state, and in a heartbeat he was transferred to the U.P. But the inmate's parents lived in Grand Rapids, so they really caught the brunt of this punishment. Ionia was a skip and a jump away. Now it takes them 4-5 hours just to get to the bridge.

I received a letter this week from a very nice inmate with a very clean record, liked by prisoners and staff alike, who is also living in one of the facilities in Ionia. But his parents, in their 80s and in bad health, live in Lapeer. In case you weren't aware of it, Michigan has a prison facility right in Lapeer. Joe's parents, although elderly and in bad health, insist on visiting him regularly. Think how much easier it would be for them to visit him if he resided in the Thumb Correctional Facility, right in Lapeer. And think how much more comfortable it would make him knowing that his elderly and ailing parents wouldn't have to take so much time and travel so far just to see him. Seems like a no brainer.

Maybe with a new administration in the state we'll see positive changes on common sense issues like this.

I wouldn't bet on it.

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