Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Some days it's not much fun in this office!

We promise to try to help any Michigan prisoner dealing with an in-prison problem.  If we can.  And that’s a big “if.”  Today Matt and I haven’t been much help.

A prisoner tells us by email that a car ran over him before he went to prison.  Says the inmate:  I haven't gotten any therapy or anything, they just gave me a booklet of things I should do. I got a limp, my ankles hurt, and swell up. They won't give me a shoe detail or anything. I've ask them to give me some shoes but they deny me for everything.  We checked with one of our doctors regarding the injury.  Nothing more that can or should be done.  We checked with a former MDOC official regarding the procedure:  Shoes aren’t all that great.  He should carefully read that booklet.

Another inmate tells us about the transfer of prisoners from an Upper Peninsula facility that was recently closed, to a recently re-opened unit just down the street.  There is fiberglass insulation shoved in the ventilation, the toilets are constantly flooding, there aren't any shelves in the lockers, they have household size washer n dryer for 160 people, they are violating fire codes in the chow hall in regards the maximum occupancy, there are carpets in the rooms with no vacuum cleaners, there was a unit that went 3 days without hot water, visiting room only holds 16 people, the vents in the bathroom leak on you when you are using the toilet.  Our best resource is a former MDOC official.  Her response:  “I know when they open a new place there are problems like these.  …The issues you get are the draining ones for everyone…if they care.”

A prisoner has an urgent legal matter and is willing to pay an attorney to help.  He claims that he and his family have spent $350,000 on lawyers and court costs so far, but he’s still behind bars.  He claims that he has one avenue of appeal left.  Turns out he doesn’t.  Says one of the state’s leading legal experts on appeals:  “Mr. Sanders wants a second bite of the 6.500 apple, but he only gets one.  The only exceptions are when ‘a retroactive change in law occurred after the first motion from relief from judgment or a claim of new evidence that was not discovered before the first such motion.’  Michigan Court Rule (MCR) 6.502(G)(2).  He can't meet that hurdle.  He is procedurally out of luck.”

And then the final sour blow of this day.  A distraught mother of a Michigan inmate called in tears.  Her son, who had served 18 years for his crime, was due to be released this morning.  He had served the minimum term of his sentence, he was a model prisoner and was in a Level One facility.  Yesterday he packed up his belongings, and he gave away all his personal hygiene products.  A friend was driving from Battle Creek way up to Marquette to pick him up.  At 5:30 PM yesterday a prison staff member apologized to him, saying he wasn’t going anywhere.  The Parole Board had miscalculated the time he should have served…he would have to stay for another 18 months!  The inmate’s driver was just about to Mackinaw City when she was called by the prison.  In tears, she turned her car around.  The elderly parents, in their 70s and in poor health, are devastated.  And we were unable to do any good.  We didn’t protest the miscalculation so much as the timing.  His mother asked Michigan Parole Board officials if they didn’t know about this before 5:30 yesterday afternoon.  She related this reply:  “They said they didn't, in fact they said they have released people before and went back and picked them up again!  Because they have people looking the records over for them.”  And people wonder why we’re clamoring for Parole Board reform!

On a day like today it feels like all we’re doing is spinning our wheels.  We don’t seem to be helping anyone.  The only answers we’re giving our friends behind bars are in the negative.  I’m sad when we just can’t give more encouragement.

But then there’s a little daylight.

From one inmate:  "I just talked to the counselor…he looked on his computer for me to see if I have a parole. Well, I do! I have a projected out date of December 8th.  Again, Doug, I thank you and Matt very much for all of your help, coming out for the Parole Board hearing, and especially your prayers. You are very much appreciated."

And from a little church in a small Michigan community where Matt and I recently made a presentation came this message today:  “I am connecting you with the Chair of our Church and Society Committee.  Her committee has decided to support Humanity for Prisoners with a donation.” God us good!

Another day in the HFP office. 

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