Long waits for Michigan prisoners and their visitors is taking on a new dimension with recent complaints from WHV. Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility is located in Ypsilanti, and actually consists of two sprawling units. All female prisoners of the state are housed there, more than 2,000 of them. Overcrowding is a serious issue, and because of the overcrowding visitation problems are legion. Here at the HFP office, we’ve been receiving more and more complaints over the past year, from inmates and from visitors.
It all came to a head a few days ago with this complaint from a prisoner:
“Last Thursday in the visiting room, 2 inmates were refused to use the restroom resulting in them urinating on themselves. There is several hours in between the inmates’ visitors leaving and the inmates being searched before they can return to their housing units. The officers are refusing to let them use the restroom. This is so sad. Any ideas?"
When we posted that message on our email network and on Facebook, there were more responses, this time from the other side of the aisle---the visitors.
Said one mother:
“We waited 3/12 hours to see our daughter at Huron Valley a few weeks ago. She was called down to the visitors room at that time so she waited there for 3 1/2 hours for us to be processed and be let into the visitors room with her. Then when we left after 2 hours, she continued to wait to be processed to go back to her unit. Some inmates waited hours to be able to return to their unit. Visitors and inmates are supposed to have two bathroom breaks per visit. Another woman visitor waited 4 1/2 hours with a 6 year old. There is nothing for a child to do in the waiting room. At Huron Valley I usually feel like I'm the one being punished. I feel like the criminal.”
The problem can no longer be ignored at WHV. It’s time for the administration to take action. Feel free to simply call this blog to the attention of your State Representative and State Senator. Feel free to forward a copy to the Governor’s office.
Visitation of prisoners is terribly important to the inmate. Everyone in this business knows it, and can quote authorities on the subject. Besides that, it’s precious. Less than 15% of prisoners even receive a visit! And when they get one, they usually treasure the experience. For those of us who follow Jesus, there's a deeper dimension as we strive to live up to his words in Matthew 25. Now it appears the difficult is becoming even more difficult!
Here’s our take on this. As Michigan citizens and Michigan tax-payers, these people who operate the state prison system and who are employed by the MDOC, actually work for us! We pay the bills. And this means that if we are treated like scum, and if our friends and loved ones get messed-up visitation periods, we have a right to complain.
It’s time that we do it.