I have a challenge for the head of the Michigan prison system. The idea isn't mine, but it's a good one: I'd like Dan Heyns to spend a day and a night in solitary confinement.
The idea comes from Colorado's new Executive Director of the state's corrections system, Rick Raemisch. He took over the prison system at a tumultuous time...the former director had been shot to death by a former inmate. A guy, as it turns out, who had spent time in solitary confinement.
Just 7 months into the job, Raemisch decided to spend a night in solitary confinement. The Colorado cells are similar to those in most states: 7 by 13 foot boxes. Prisoners spend 22 or more hours a day in these terrible containers, for months, sometimes years, sometimes decades. A shameful practice by corrections officials that is certain to do psychological damage.
In January of this year---unbeknownst to the prisoners---Raemisch was led wearing handcuffs and leg shackles into his tiny cell at Colorado State Prison in Canon City. He spent the next 20 hours there...undoubtedly the longest 20 hour period in his life.
Now he's very publicly telling his story, and it's time that we all listen. There's gotta be a better way!
And so our challenge is to Michigan's executive director, Daniel Heyns, who also comes into this position without corrections experience...who also has a background in law enforcement.
Our challenge is actually more expansive.
Spend a day and a night in solitary, Mr. Heyns.
Surprise a prison facility, and eat one of the Aramark meals with the inmates, Mr. Heyns.
Put on prison garb and pay a visit incognito to a prison healthcare facility, Mr. Heyns.
And let this just be the beginning. Use your imagination to find out just what Michigan prisoners are experiencing, and how their families and friends are being treated.
Michigan prisons will never be the same.