It happens so often. A problem is perceived, and as a result, a new rule is created. We have a feeling that’s what happened in Michigan’s prison for women, located in Ypsilanti.
According to our sources in the Michigan Department of Corrections, the prison warden wanted to make sure that the dayrooms, where prisoners gather during down times, weren’t used for religious services which, under a specific corrections policy, are to be held in specific areas in the prison. And so a rule was created, and this is the exact wording:
IX. DAY/GROOMING/TV ROOMS
6. All religious studies must be done in your cell or at specified times in programs.
Armed with that new rule, Corrections Officers began immediate enforcement. One of our friends immediately contacted the HFP office: “We can no longer do Bible studies outside our cell. We cannot bring our Bibles into the dayroom and read them, discussing with our fellow believers. We can only wait for church services once a week, or read them in our rooms. For example, if I do not understand something while reading the Bible and I want to talk to my friend about it, it is against the rules, and I will get a ticket if I do so.”
We have learned to check out reports like this. We don’t want to respond to the prisoner’s complaint until we know it is valid, and we don’t want to spread unfounded rumors. Sometimes prisoners are mistaken, or Corrections Officers exaggerate. Not so this time.
HFP went right to the top, checking in with one of our excellent and reasonable contacts in the front office of the MDOC in Lansing. An administrative aide confirmed the new rule, but added, “…the intent was never to prevent prisoners from carrying their Bible to the dayroom or discussing religious matters with a fellow prisoner.” Then came the important final words: “To avoid confusion, the rule will be rescinded.”
Score one for religious freedom! This affects not only Christians, but adherents of all faiths---Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Native Americans. And if this policy is firm in Lansing, it means that similar rules will not crop up in other Michigan prisons.
HFP---just doing its job!