I wrote my first local news story for a radio station in 1954. I continued to actively cover stories and write news copy here in western Michigan until 1983. Since then, my writing has been of a freelance nature, but my heart and mind are still in the newsroom. And I must say this: Never in my lifetime have I seen a Michigan story as devastating as the ongoing problem in the City of Flint! I find it utterly shameful, and I believe that it has the capability of bringing down our current Michigan government administrators at the top level, including our Governor.
Aside from the whole issue of whether Governor Snyder should have gotten into the field of taking over local management of cities and school systems, there’s one thing that is beyond debate: A REFUSAL TO LISTEN.
In a January 6 editorial, the Detroit News said the public, local politicians, academics and the news media had been reporting on the problem of unfit drinking water in Flint for months! Said the News: Flint’s water, drawn from its nearby river on orders from the state, is an unambiguous danger to public health. The fact that it took months — months after Flint was reconnected to the Detroit Water System — for the state to begin taking accountability for missteps engineered on its orders is an indictment that stands on its own.
Now let us get to the problem of Michigan’s only prison for women, located in Ypsilanti. WHV (Women’s Huron Valley) Correctional Facility is seriously overcrowded.
A very fine prisoner advocacy agency, the Michigan chapter of the AMERICAN FRIENDS SERVICE COMMITTEE, after compiling pages and pages of hard evidence and personal complaints, drafted a stinging 4-page letter to then Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections Dan Heyns and then WHV Warden Millicent Warren (with copies to the Governor and state legislators) protesting the overcrowding conditions and the plethora of resulting problems. That was in August, 2014!
Last fall I was granted a private audience with the new MDOC Director, Heidi Washington. In a one-hour session I again conveyed messages from our women friends behind bars regarding the multitude of problems as a result of overcrowding.
Said the headline on the front page of the HFP newsletter in October, 2015: WOMEN STACKED LIKE CORDWOOD! We asked our supporters to forward copies to the Governor’s office and to their state legislators.
In November, Detroit Free Press writer Paul Egan dealt with the issue in depth, in a story with this headline: State's women inmates housed in offices, TV rooms.
In December, complaints to the HFP office from women behind bars reached a crescendo---45 appeals for help dealing with overcrowding issues! We put out excerpts of their messages via email and Facebook, again urging our supporters to contact the state.
Also in December, Freep writer Egan revisited the overcrowding problem with another piece: MDOC restricts access to day rooms at women's prison.
No noticeable response.
It appears that the Governor and Michigan’s top dogs hear only what they want to hear, whether the issue is lead-poisoning or overcrowding. The Detroit News calls it “official callous disregard for delivering basic governmental responsibilities to the people who pay the bills.” Call it what you wish, but we call it totally unacceptable!
The children in Flint deserve better.
Our women behind bars deserve better.
You and I, as Michigan tax payers, deserve better.