Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A kinder, gentler DOC

I had forgotten the words of former President George H.W. Bush, who back in 1988 called for a "kinder, gentler nation."

Last week I had an opportunity to hear the Director of the MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Daniel Heyns, talk about his hopes and goals for the MDOC. I heard about lower recidivism rates, and improved training for corrections officers. But I heard nothing about a kinder, gentler DOC.

And that's one of the things we really need.

My thoughts turned to that today because the office of HFP is dealing with several issues, once again, in the women's facility. All of Michigan's female inmates are housed in a large complex at Ypsilanti, Michigan.

First and foremost on our plate, as many of you know, is the toilet paper issue. New restrictions give the women only two small rolls of single-ply tissue per week...tissue that must also take the place of facial tissue and paper towels, because the inmates don't get anything like that. We have been bombarded with complaints. Women have kept logs of how many sheets are used at a time, and they're still running out in four days!

Then there's our friend the wheelchair lady. Prisoners contacted us because the staff treats her so poorly, and doesn't provide a pusher. She told me that when she asks someone to push her, they want to be paid, and she makes prisoner wages. That amounts to pennies, not dollars.

And now a new one today...a young woman with the HIV virus who just cannot get appropriate care and medication, and is terribly sick. Her mother contacted us from another state. She's beside herself with fear that, without proper treatment, the girl will develop full-blown AIDS.

HFP's goal is to seek kinder, gentler treatment of all prisoners. That's why I met this week with representatives of HOSPICE OF MICHIGAN to explore how we can better serve dying inmates and their families.

Instead of just praising MDOC Director Heyns for being a man of faith, the many faith-based initiatives working in Michigan Prisons should be reminding him that Jesus expects us to show compassion to the least of these. And when we don't, we are not following his precepts.

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