Showing posts from May, 2016

A tribute to three caring Corrections Officers

I was speaking to a group of senior citizens on a college campus, and I was not very complimentary in my comments about some corrections officers.  I was telling stories about some officers employed by the Michigan Department of Corrections who seem to feel that their position entitles them to be rude and demeaning to inmates…sometimes even cruel and abusive. I told of an officer who knew one of the old guys had a huge, terribly sensitive bulge below his belly because of a hernia.  As he passed the old boy in chow line he stopped, and asked him if it was true that he had a hernia.  Mac agreed that it was, indeed, the truth.  “I don’t believe it,” the guard responded.  “Drop your pants and show me.”  The prisoner had no choice than to be humiliated in front of all the guys in line.  The officer allowed that he certainly did have a hernia, then gave the tender bulge a jab with his finger, and walked away laughing.  I shared a few other similar horror stories. At the conclusi

Will Michigan ever treat the poor fairly in court?

I was so naïve!   I had been a reporter for nearly 30 years. In that time I covered the police beat, and I covered court activities.   How the poor were being treated never entered my mind.   Then, in 1995 I headed up an effort to help an indigent black man from Gary, Indiana who had been wrongly convicted and was incarcerated in Michigan.   It was an eye-opener! I was appalled at the lack of legal assistance granted to Maurice Carter.  His court-appointed attorney did nothing to help, failed to properly question the key witness in the case, and had a reputation for falling asleep in the courtroom.  When Maurice attempted to appeal, based on ineffective work by his attorney, the court gave him THE SAME LAWYER to file the appeal!  He filed it late, missing the deadline.  Later, I learned that these conditions were not just evident in Berrien County. Many years later, it is no surprise for me to learn that Michigan has been ranked as one of the worst states in the U.S. on spendi

An open letter to Governor Snyder

Dear Governor Snyder: You probably never gave this a thought, but thousands of prisoners in your state can identify with your predicament.  I’m talking about the Flint water situation.  The reality of the situation is that you cannot undo the past.  As you’ve discovered, it’s where you go from here that counts.  Now it’s up to you to prove to the people of Flint, and to the citizens of Michigan, that you really do care for all of us, rich and poor, black and white.  That will come not from talk, but with action. It’s the same for many, many of the 43,000 people locked up in your state prisons.  There’s not a thing they can do about the chapter in their life that sent them behind bars.  All they do is pick up the pieces.  Now it’s up to them to prove that they shouldn’t spend the rest of their lives being judged for the worst thing they ever did.  They can’t just talk about it.  It’s up to them to prove it. Among the things you can do, Mr. Governor, to show that you do have

Mother's Day prayers for battered moms

Mother’s Day isn’t a day of gladness and reunion for everyone. For example, it’s a day of sadness for those who have recently lost mothers, a sad day for those women who want to be mothers but cannot bear children, a day of regret for those mothers who mistreated their kids and wish they could live their lives over again, a day of painful memories for those who chose abortion and now wish they hadn’t. But today, I want to focus on an even smaller group of women.  Some of them are mothers.  Some perhaps would have been mothers under different circumstances.  They’re in prison for killing or seriously injuring their spouse or significant other, a deadly climax to years of violence and abuse. I’m especially mindful of that, in the quiet of my office on this Mother’s Day morning, because I have two friends who the state has determined should spend the rest of their lives behind bars.  These women are not hardened criminals.  They don’t have a history of violence and illegal ac

A prison guard who cares, and no one listens!

Skip Barnett is a Michigan Corrections Officer who cares…and no one is listening! This story gets its roots in a recent staff meeting that was held at the Alger Correctional Facility in Munising, where Barnett serves as a CO.  He was not at the meeting, but the word came down at the Deputy Warden had advised staff that he wanted the facility to go backward in time, where it would be a “fun” place to work…and he didn’t want issues coming across his desk. A word of clarification here.  By “fun,” he didn’t mean that this would be an exemplary place to work.  He meant that, in the olden days, it was fun to mistreat prisoners.  He was allowing it again...he just didn't want to hear anything about it.  Judging by response from the staff, according to Barnett, they were digging it. Here’s how Officer Barnett put it, in his message to our office:  …there certainly is an unsavory aspect to a Deputy Warden in a small prison upstate, with almost exclusively white staff, being tol