Last year I and few of my musician friends paid a visit to the campus of the Women's Huron Valley facility, where all female prisoners in Michigan are housed. We were there to present a gospel concert. As we walked through the yard I spotted one of my many friends in this facility, ran up to her and started to give her a hug She jumped back, saying, "You're going to get my ass in trouble!" No hugs allowed. I was so pleased, as a follow-up to that experience, to receive this brief essay in the mail.
The following guest column was written by Ms. S.M., a Michigan prisoner and a dear friend:
I was sentenced to LIFE and 54-81 years in prison. Did the courts know what they were doing? I am sentenced now to a lifetime without a hug. Any physical touching of ANY kid, including a hug, is prohibited by policy.
When I go to church, the volunteers cannot hug me. If my mother or father were to die, my friend could not hug me. If I am having a breakdown of any sort, nobody can reach out and embrace me or comfort me. How is this good?
I didn’t think so much about it a decade ago when my children were young and my mother brought them to see me every week. I hurt inside when a volunteer reaches out to embrace me, and I have to say “No hugs…we cannot hug in here.”
I cannot make a stuffed bear to hug, it is against policy. I cannot hug my room-mate, it is against policy. Hugging in the MDOC’s eyes is a form of sexual contact. I’d like to do research to find out just what happens to a human being who goes through 54 years of no physical contact. One of my friends just went to her Public Hearing. She has been down 28 years. I haven’t seen her go on many visits throughout the years. I wonder how she will react after so many years of not feeling a human touch?
Oh, what I wouldn’t do to have a hug every day! A HUG. What could possibly be wrong with a hug?
So much has been taken from us because of the crimes we committed. Our families, our homes, our freedom. We know we did wrong to get here, but is it really helping society to make it worse?
Recently I witnessed a volunteer not able to come back into this facility because she hugged us. She didn’t know that doing something that comes naturally to human beings is not allowed to prisoners. It’s so sad to me that for the next 39 years I cannot have a hug unless I get a visit. (Fewer than 15% of Michigan prisoners even receive a visit!) But wait, our hugs on our visits are monitored, too. One time my goodbye took 42 seconds. I was told that was too long, and if I did it again my visits would be restricted.
What is this doing to us? Creating robo-prisoners?
Life and 54 to 81 years without a hug…