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 care and compassion in your heart, is to pay some attention to prisoners. The people in Flint aren’t the only needy ones in your state. There’s a long list of items that deserve and, yes, demand your attention before you leave office: sentence reform, indigent defense reform, Parole Board reform, justice for juveniles, compensation for the wrongly convicted. In addition, there’s a long list of problems within the prisons that deserve your attention: inadequate medical care, inadequate provisions for the terminally ill, overcrowding, drugs, extortion, gangs, for starters. Besides that, we would like to see a demonstration of your care and compassion through such things as pardoning some deserving inmates, granting commutations to deserving prisoners who have proven their worth, releasing geriatric inmates to outside institutions, and enlarging your narrow window for compassionate releases of critically ill inmates.
You can’t undo Flint, Mr. Governor, but you can take major steps to improve your legacy.
Prisoners can’t undo the act that got them in trouble, either…but many, many of them are working hard to change not only their reputation but their direction in life.
There are many wonderful advocacy agencies in this state doing their best to help prisoners. Please show us you care by showing interest in what we do.
If you deserve a second chance, so do they. Let us help.
I’m praying for you, just as I’m praying for prisoners. We’ve all fallen short.
Doug Tjapkes, President
HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS