You’d think a veteran worker in this field, with a journalism background, would have learned by now. Yet, I stubbornly remain an optimist. And that’s why I was so disappointed this week.
Matt and I have been dealing with problems related to overcrowded conditions at the one and only Michigan prison for women, Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility (WHV), in Ypsilanti, for weeks. Nay, months. I even drove to Lansing for a personal meeting with the new Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Finally, a ray of shining light this week! Paul Egan, fine writer for the Detroit Free Press, agreed that the overcrowded conditions and a resulting 21-hour-a-day restriction to prison cells were worthy of a story. Perhaps, just perhaps, now the MDOC will respond, administrators at the facility might consider adjustment, attorneys might consider class action, Michigan voters might consider contacting their elected officials and demand change.
Alas, none of the above.
Word from the front office: Corrections Department Director Heidi Washington denies there is an overcrowding problem.
Word from the prison: I spoke with the Warden yesterday, and he told me that we were going to “pay” for the story in the Free Press.
Word from a prominent civil rights attorney: It is extremely hard to litigate overcrowding cases because just because you have double the number of inmates that the facility was built for does not get you even close to winning a case. You need high level of violence; poor food; poor medical care; poor environmental conditions; etc. It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to litigate such cases. You likely will have better luck seeking to make changes in the manner you are.
Response from Michigan voters to our email notice of the Free Press Story, and a subsequent blog on the HFP internet blog site: Underwhelming!
Why, why, did I expect more? I really know better. This isn’t my first rodeo. It goes way back to the days when I first started trying to help Maurice Carter in 1995. I tried to explain to my friends in positions of influence that I was trying to help an indigent black man who claimed wrongful conviction. I needed their help. A moment of silence, then a shake of the hand. “Good for you, Doug. We need people like you!” And no further assistance.
Let’s face it, this is the Christmas season…time for happiness, fun and joy. It’s no time to be thinking about the terribly unpleasant plight of 2,200 women behind bars.
Except for here in the HFP office. The plight of these women remains at the forefront of our thinking. It remains a priority! I’ll go one step farther. I’ll remain the optimist. I not only believe that God is still on his throne, I believe we are on the right track and Jesus is on our side. I believe the state is treating these women poorly. I believe that someday, someone in authority is going to see the light. I believe that good will prevail. Someday.
It’s certainly not happening at the moment.