Friday, August 5, 2016

We're here for you!

My wife pokes fun of me as we’re watching the ball game on TV.  One announcer’s sing-song voice just hits me wrong every time, as she croons at the end of a commercial:  “We’re here for you.”

I’m thinking of those very words at the end of a busy week here in the HFP office.

Family members contacted us on a number of very serious issues, and when that happens Matt and I pounce on them, because---as in one case---it could even be a matter of life and death.

There was a call from a worried sister, out-of-state, who feels so helpless when operating by remote control.  Her brother, whose behavior and moods are seriously affected by fetal alcohol syndrome, had been under the wing of a caring corrections officer.  But then the inmate was transferred.  Now he’s alone and scared.  He thinks one of the COs has it in for him, and he doesn’t dare leave his cell for supper.  He’s afraid his possessions will get stolen from his room. 

The father of a newly adopted daughter is concerned about her well-being.  She had back surgery just before she was sentenced, and to no one’s surprise, her after-surgery care has been negligible while in prison.  Besides that, she’s allergic to wool and breaks out in hives when in contact with her bed clothes.

The daughter-in-law of a man serving 10-15 on a plea deal contacts us as a last resort.  The man has an IQ of 62, cannot read or write, and she claims could not possibly have understood the deal when it was explained to him, nor could he have understood what he was signing.  Now that he’s in prison, he cannot read letters that are sent to him, nor can he read email messages that are sent to him.  And, of course, he cannot write his own letters.  He’s not capable.  He doesn’t know how.  And one can only imagine, then, how he’s coping in the cold, impersonal prison setting.

The most serious story came from a mother whose daughter is a diabetic and who suffers seizures.  Her medication is not being properly administered or regulated, according to reports from behind bars.  One of the physicians on our panel of advisers was very alarmed, prompting an urgent note from HFP to the warden’s office and to Lansing.

While all contacts may not have seemed that critical, they were important to the inmate.

The heat is getting to a guy whose tiny fan just can’t keep up, and the guards won’t let him open his food tray slot to allow some ventilation.  They say he must keep it closed so that the air control system can move air properly.  He scoffs, saying his vent is so clogged a piece of Kleenex couldn’t stick to the grates.  He’s roasting.

There was a report that ice machines were being taken away in some units of the women’s prison.  Perfect time of the year for that!

And then one woman from Huron Valley was disgusted that no one would do anything about two holes in the floor of the visiting room, where a multitude of ants could be seen coming and going…this on the same floor where small children of inmates play with their toys.

But the heavy layer of angst was cracked by one telephone call from Mary.  DNA testing had just proved that her son had not committed the crime!  It fingered another inmate!  He was sentenced in 1983.  Praise God!

All part of the HFP roller coaster.

And yes, our word to Michigan prisoners and their loved ones:  We’re here for you!

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