Sunday, October 21, 2012

On visiting Michigan prisons

You're going to be hearing a lot about this. The reason is I have a belly full of complaints, and I'm darn mad. The MDOC's prisoner visiting policies are ambiguous at best, capricious at worst, and completely and totally inconsistent from one facility to another. It's a joke, and not a funny one. The situation is so serious that it deserves legal attention, and I hope we can attract some. I'm thinking of the possibility of class action, and I'll bet we'd get hundreds of interested families.

I'll deal with more of these situations in follow-up entries. But right now HFP is working on two cases...a permanent visitor restriction and a temporary one. I'm incensed over both of them. I don't dare give the names for fear of retaliation. The families are frightened. Some of the prisoners are enraged.

The permanent restriction doesn't come until after what is called an administrative hearing. After obtaining documents from the hearing as well as a statement from the spouse of the prisoner, I think this could more accurately be labeled a kangaroo court.

It was a genuine mickey-mouse charge over a minor incident, and it mushroomed into a situation where the wife of a prisoner has been permanently banned from visiting her husband. Can you believe that? He's 49 years old, and he's in for life. And now he's been told that his wife may never visit him again. Gimme some kind of a break, here.

The temporary restriction is just that. There has been no hearing, and the mother of a prisoner has no idea whether she'll be able to see her son again. Let me just tell you this much about the case: the young man in prison suffers from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and finds it very difficult to behave. It's the nature of the problem. But somehow in the twisted logic of the MDOC, the mother caught some blame also, and was ordered not to see her son any more. Now please try to come up with one good reason why an elderly mother, nearly my age, cannot visit her mentally ill son, whom she loves and adopted many years ago to care for him. She's all he has.

I have a statement from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction:
Visits give inmates something to look forward to, an incentive to participate in rehabilitative programs, and a mechanism with which to cope with prison life.

That being the case, what do you suppose the prohibition of visits does?

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