Thursday, December 6, 2012

Open letter to the boss

To Mr. Daniel Heyns, Director

Dear Mr. Heyns:

You make one generalization in your letter to the editor of the Detroit Free Press, published in the November 11, 2012 edition, that must be challenged. In praising your team of employees, you say this about their work with prisoners: “Every day, they deal with the worst of the worst of Michigan's citizens.” It's a generalization that must be challenged. The worst of the worst?

I started going through the HFP files to list exceptions to that rule. I intended to list names of prisoners, and a list of reasons why I so admire these men and women...all of them friends. I found too much material. Many of these inmates have gone 10, 20, 30 and 40 years without one misconduct. They are active in positive programs like the National Lifers Association. They are mentoring and teaching. They are knitting clothing for the underprivileged. They go out of their way to help senior citizens and the mentally ill. They care for the ailing and the injured. Old-timers do their best to give valuable advice to youngsters coming into the system. We encounter it daily. My friend Dr. David Schuringa, President of Crossroad Bible Institute, insists that these are the people that Jesus would enjoy hanging out with. The worst of the worst?

Kenny Wyniemko, wrongly convicted and freed from prison thanks to DNA testing, claims that up to 15% of prisoners may be innocent. Some statistics show that perhaps 20% of Michigan prisoners are mentally ill. The worst of the worst?

How about those employees of yours who do not meet your description of the most dedicated, compassionate, honest and hardest-working? How about those dirty cops who bring in the drugs and allow the resulting illicit activity. How about those guards who tease and abuse the mentally ill, especially the youngsters...the ones who throw a teenager into the hole wearing only his underwear and then open the window on a January day. Or the ones who throw a mentally ill man in the hole on a hot summer day, and turn off his cold water tap. How about the medical people taking away asthma inhaling devices and discontinuing important prescriptions for no particular reason? The medical and dental people refusing basic services?

We hasten to add that we are not to be classified as liberal bleeding hearts who want all prisoners released. We work in the prisons. We know that there are people who belong there. We realize that prisons are here for a reason. We also acknowledge that there are many honest, dedicated, kind people working in the prison system.

Jesus informed his supporters that HE was in prison, chided them for not visiting him, or praised them for calling on him. That wasn't Jesus making the visit. That was Jesus being visited. The worst of the worst?

There are good and bad people behind bars...very much like we have in a free society, and inmates deserve that acknowledgement from the director of our prison system.

Doug Tjapkes, President


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