Tuesday, December 31, 2013

More compassion for the ailing in 2014?

As I sit enjoying my first cuppa on the last day of the year, I'm reflecting on the huge challenges ahead for HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS. And some of the biggest challenges we face involve sickness and death.

Matt and I are reviewing the statistics for 2013, but a cursory glance at the daily log shows us that health issues are a dominant theme.

In short, here's what we're aiming for in the new year: better health care for ailing and injured inmates; more compassionate releases for prisoners with terminal illnesses; and, some form of hospice care for those who are dying and who do not get released to their families and loved ones.

Throughout the year we have heard terrifying stories of lack of proper care for prisoners who were afflicted with various illnesses, or who were injured either accidentally or intentionally. It is not uncommon, for example, to receive reports that medications have been taken away from prisoners...especially pain meds. We're the first to agree that there can be abuse. Some people with no moral character are not above faking pain, hoping to get narcotics. But one doesn't have to be an MD to tell when an ailing or injured person is in pain. Inmates tell of a young man who died of an asthma attack after his inhaler was taken away.

Throughout the year we found a callousness among Michigan Parole Board members when it came to compassionate releases. A woman who died of cancer in the Huron Valley infirmary had no business being there. She should have been home with those closest to her. A man in the Thumb Facility who died of lung cancer was the perfect example of heartless PB decisions. A request for a compassionate release was denied last year...another was denied this year. He died alone, behind bars. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

Throughout the year we heard stories of prisoners who died behind bars who should have had more compassionate care...the kind of care that only hospice can provide. We tried to raise the issue with the prison system and the health care provider at a high-level meeting in Lansing in 2013, but it went nowhere. There seems to be a lack of concern, because hospice care is readily available to us and our families. And those people...well, they're just prisoners, and they are there for a reason.

Jesus loved prisoners, and still does. And as his representatives, we do, too. We made some strides in 2013, but you ain't seen nothin' yet!

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