Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Is this why the Parole Board doesn't like our idea?

I received the letter from Michigan Parole Board Chairman Thomas Combs, rejecting my proposal to hold in-prison seminars, at about the same time a friend recommended a book to me. I devoured the book ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK: MY YEAR IN A WOMEN'S PRISON in just two days. The blunt depiction of the shameful way women are treated in the federal prison system by author Piper Kerman, I think, shed some light on Chairman Combs' decision.

HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS had proposed that Mr. Combs and I go into the prisons and do a series of seminars for the inmates on how to prepare for Parole Board interviews. I cannot think of a more effective public relations campaign to improve the sorry image of he Parole Board in prisons. I cannot think of a better way for the Parole Board members to discover that inmates are real people, people with real emotions and feelings, people who can and do ask intelligent questions and make astute comments.

Mr. Combs says we would simply be duplicating efforts already undertaken by the American Friends Service Committee. The AFSC is doing in-prison programs on this topic, and knowing the people involved, I have to believe that they are terrific. But these sessions do not deal with the issues I just explained.

Here's what I think, and it's merely speculation. I think Mr. Combs and the Parole Board members don't really want to know what it's like in prison. And I think they really don't want to see the human side of prisoners. As it stands, prisoners are getting what they deserve, and they are simply an identification number. The name is not important, and neither are the inmate's personal problems and situations.

Mr. Combs, all involved in the MDOC, all judges and all prosecutors should read ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. The federal prison conditions as described in author Kerman's book are worse in the state prisons, based on what we hear each day. The shameful treatment of inmates by many prison staffers seems to be the norm everywhere.

There's gotta be a better way.

Just sayin'

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