My friend Troy argues that, according to the State of Michigan, he’s not a person.
As he researched Freedom of Information Act requests, he learned that “persons” could be entitled to such information. Said the state: 'Person' means an individual, corporation, limited liability company, partnership, firm, organization, association, governmental entity or other legal entity. Then it went on to say: Person’ does NOT include an individual serving a sentence of imprisonment in a state or country correctional facility in this state or any other state or any federal correctional facility.
Troy’s conclusion: He is a prisoner of the State of Michigan, therefore he is not a person.
I use this simple illustration to highlight an issue that troubles me.
We talk about 39,000 people in the Michigan prison system, numbers of blacks, numbers of whites, numbers of reoffenders, numbers of women, numbers of seniors…heck, each prisoner has his/her own ID number, and that’s how they’re known. No names, just numbers.
We’ve dealt with a lack of humanity in prison statistics forever. But look at the rest of the news.
No one talks about gymnast Rachel Den Hollander. Instead, we lump together the incredibly large number of athletes who were sexually molested by Dr. Larry Nassar.
No one talks about geography teacher Scott Beigel, or his 14 year old student Gina Montalto. They are just among the sad number of casualties in the latest of many school shootings in this country.
In church, in the coffee shop, in our city council, in our state legislature, with our congressman and senators, and yes, with our president, we talk numbers. When we do that, we don’t really have to dig below the surface to discover that these are, or were, tender, fragile human beings just like you and me.
Says St. Paul, in describing the body of Christ: …its members should have mutual concern for one another. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
So when x-number of Michigan prisoners aren’t getting adequate health care and inferior food, that includes Troy, but we all suffer. When x-number of athletes are abused by a physician/molester, that includes Rachel, but we all suffer. When families are torn apart as students like Gina and teachers like Scott get gunned down, we all suffer.
I was reading of a rape victim who used adversity to bring about change. “Mama Masika” committed her entire life to protecting and raising awareness of rape as a weapon of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It’s past time to react and respond.
On that day when all citizens join families and friends of inmates to support humane prison care, when men and women who are not affected by molesters stand with victims to demand change, when all US citizens join hands with Florida teenagers to hold our government accountable for mass shootings, we all win!