The State of Michigan said it was a budget issue. Two prisoner visitation days a week were eliminated. MDOC spokesman John Cordell said it would save his department millions of dollars. But he conceded that it might result in an inconvenience to some people. Oh, really? Check with the women at Huron Valley.
The problem gets more serious because all female Michigan prisoners are in one facility, some 1,800 of them. Weekday visitation is a thing of the past, so all husbands, brothers, parents, siblings and qualified children must visit these women on the weekend.
Prisoner A told me, "there are many, many problems, with visitors waiting 2 hours to get in, and prisoners waiting in the visiting room that long, only to be told that their visitor has left." She went on: "My husband has driven 4 and 1/2 hours, but his visit was terminated because of lack of space."
"Besides that," said Prisoner B, "instead of having their once-a-month emergency count on a non-visitation day, they choose to have it on a visiting day. All movement stops. Families waste gas driving here for nothing...they make them all leave, and if they bought food from the vending machine they make our visitors throw the food away. Some waited to get in and were only there 5 minutes and had to leave and throw the food away. And if too many people are there, they will start terminating your visits so others can get in."
"Visitors do not get treated any better than prisoners do, except they are not strip-searched and they get to go out the front door when the visit is over," said Inmate C. "The extremely undersized visiting rooms make visiting a real frustrating experience for both prisoners and their visitors. Many grievances have been filed. I'll get copies for you."
Penny wise and pound foolish?
Kay Perry, Executive Director of the Michigan chapter of Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants, said the department should have found ways to save money without keeping prisoners from their families. "Those people that have a social support network are going to do better when they're released."
Barb Levine, Executive Director of Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending said people look at these visits as perks for prisoners, somehow. "This is not just about the prisoner. It is about kids separated from parent, and spouses living apart from their mates."