All writing is a form of prayer - John Keats

Thursday, November 19, 2009


The impact of the Michigan Department of Corrections' slogan, posted in almost every prison facility, hit me again yesterday.

I had agreed to be a prisoner's representative for a television-interactive parole board interview in Kingsley, Michigan---150 miles from here. It promised to be a relatively easy interview. The prisoner has already served his minimum, he has a clean record, and has a 14 year old terminally ill son back home. The parole board member should be empathetic on this one.

I was told, in advance, that the interview was to be held Monday morning of this week. Last week the prisoner's family frantically contacted me to inform me that it was rescheduled for Wednesday. Then it was set back to Monday. Then it was finally scheduled AGAIN for Wednesday, at 8 AM. No explanation.

I pause to stress that we take EVERY parole board interview seriously. A generous donor provided gasoline for the trip, our ever-ready prayer partners were notified in advance, and my words were carefully and prayerfully chosen.

I was up at 4, on the road at 5, arrived at the prison near Kingley at 8, only to be casually informed by the woman at the desk that the new time for the interview was 11 AM...three hours later!

I wasted three hours in northern Michigan, returned to the prison, and was told that I could bring no items into the interview room. I always bring in two sheets of paper with me bearing my comments. A mild protest. The officials relented. My papers could go in, but not my pen!

I met the prisoner, we chatted amiably, 11 o'clock came and went, then 11:30, then 12. Apparently the time of prisoners and their representatives is not as valuable as that of someone serving on the parole board. It was after 12 o'clock noon before the parole board member BEGAN his interviews, and we were fourth in line!

I departed from northern Michigan at 1:30 PM: All-in-all, a 12-hour day, in which I spoke a maximum of 60 seconds to a callous board member who bluntly told the prisoner, “ You'll get a decision in 30 days.”

My friend was disappointed. I was beat, but I'd do it again today if necessary. It's where we belong. It's what we do!

But, I must say that our former-prisoner/advisor's addendum to the MDOC slogan came to mind:

...and never finding it!

No comments: