Women in the Michigan prison system received a piece of coal in their Christmas stocking this year. A new policy, enacted just before the Christmas holiday limits their time in the Day Room to three hours per day. What this means, in effect, is that inmates are then confined to their cells or perhaps the yard for the rest of the day.
The Michigan Department of Corrections claimed, in an interview with Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press, that the action was taken because of intense competition for Day Room space, even coming down to near-criminal activity. I’m not saying that kind of stuff doesn’t or didn’t happen…after all, this is prison. But here we see two typical MDOC responses: 1), place the blame somewhere other than on the real problem, which is very obviously overcrowding; and 2), over-react by penalizing everyone.
I hope you read Mr. Egan’s article in the FREEP this morning, and we hope you’ll respond by forwarding the piece to the Governor and to your state legislators.
But let me add a few things to the article that were not included...notes that we picked up in our office from the many, many complaints we have received.
The grooming area is in the Day Room. Why is it important to mention this? Because for many, if the three-hour assignment comes at the wrong time of the day, the inmates will not be able to get adequately groomed in preparation for visits. For men this may not be all that important, but for women it is, for very obvious reasons.
Overcrowding affects the Day Room, too! One woman writes to us: “200 plus women are being forced to share a day room area with no TV and only 42 chairs.”
Going outdoors isn’t all that simple, either. Words of another prisoner: “Warden says we can go outside, but days on end yard closes and opens late, or not at all, due to bad weather, chow lines running over, etc, which causes us to be in our cells 21 hours daily---with 1 desk, 1 chair, having to sit, write, type, do hobby-craft, eat and sleep on my bunk.”
And there’s one more factor that everyone seems to be avoiding: Inmates are being told that this is in retaliation for their whistle-blowing about overcrowded conditions! “ Officers tell us we asked for this by complaining. All we've been doing is asking for humane living conditions!!!
Ya’ll are the ones who want to write to newspapers and news stations telling them s**t!
Yet, the MDOC refuses to admit this is an overcrowding problem. In a November 22 article in the Freep: Still, when newly appointed Corrections Department Director Heidi Washington was questioned about Huron Valley when she appeared recently before a House committee, she said: "I wouldn't characterize it as being overcrowded."
…state Corrections Department officials deny they have a serious overcrowding problem on their hands.
There are approximately 2,300 women in the Michigan prison system, most of them with family and friends in Michigan. And most of these family members and loved ones are registered voters. If the MDOC won’t listen and respond, it’s time to go to elected officials, right on up to the Governor.
Let your voices be heard.