I've told you about Lois DeMott, the founder of Citizens for Prison Reform, and her untiring efforts on behalf of her son when he was in prison. Kevin was in his teens and struggled with some mental health issues. His mother was relentless in fighting for his care and eventual release.
So it was no surprise this month when Lois took up the cause of Ron. Ron is not a criminal, he's an alcoholic. Whether he belongs in prison is a moot point...he's there. His addiction led to a traffic accident that the state ruled was criminal, and thus came incarceration. He doesn't have much longer to serve, but now his days are torture.
Six months before he went to prison Ron suffered serious injuries from a 28 foot fall, and was placed on permanent disability. You're heard enough of our reports to know that getting appropriate medical care behind bars is a real challenge. Perceived inadequate treatment leads to complaints, and when prisoners complain they're a problem. One solution to that problem is to send the inmate to another facility. I must add here that Ron is from the Grand Rapids area. He claims that his persistence in seeking proper treatment resulted in his transfer to Newberry, which is not next door.
Now let me tell you about Ron's immediate support group: his family. His mother is 84, and in the hospital with a leg infection. His wife of 32 years is in hospice care with terminal cancer. His daughter says she asks for her husband regularly, and a visit would be incredibly therapeutic. Ron told me that all he can think of is his wife suffering without him at her side. His words to me: “It's more than I can bear.”
So Lois simply asked the MDOC if Ron could be transferred to a facility close to home. Mrs. Ron can travel no longer than an hour...but she could make a visit to a facility nearby. This husband and wife need each other. His elderly mom can't travel that far, either. And after all, Director Dan Heyns has said that families of prisoners are important.
Not this time. In a very short message, Communications Director Russ Marlan pointed out that the state gets requests like this all the time. Said Marlan: “I know it's probably not the answer his family was looking for.”