Showing posts from February, 2017

Hoping to keep kids from going to prison!

So here’s the thing. I can be pretty quick to criticize wardens and prison staffers here in Michigan when I think that what they’re doing is wrong. BUT. Then I darn well better be up front with praise when I think something is good.  And that’s where I am today. Several Michigan prisons have undertaken a project called the Juvenile Deterrent Program.  It’s a mentoring program, designed to keep troubled teens from winding up in the state prison system. Among those prisons embarking on this project is the Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility, right next door in Muskegon.  Here’s how it works.  Prisoners are used to mentor juvenile delinquents who are on probation in that hope that they will deter and dissuade them from continuing in this negative behavior pattern.  They’re quick to point out to these kids that if they stay on that path, it leads to a room behind bars. And to her credit, prisoners are telling us that Warden Shirlee Harry has announced that

Yes, Tammy, he cares...and so do we!

Not much more could have gone wrong in Tammy’s life. She came into the Michigan prison system with a fistful of charges four years ago, and did well until a few months ago when she claims she was set up on a misconduct charge of smuggling.  But until the state could conduct a hearing on her non guilty plea, she was placed in segregation…or as the prisoners call it, in the hole. And while there, last month, things went south. Her mother was brutally murdered in her Detroit home on January 6 th …it was all over the TV news on the 7 th . Tammy’s sister Judith, who is on her visitor list and who serves as her emergency contact, immediately called the prison to relay the bad news.  That was on the 7 th .  But the system resisted.  Who knows, could be a fake call.  Her sister tried again every day until January 13 th .  Finally, one week after the slaying, Judith was advised to fax proof of their mother’s death to the Warden’s office.  The following Tuesday, January 17 th ,

Seems cruel and unusual to me!

As I review complaints about medical care, or lack thereof, in the Michigan prison system, I contend that the state is violating the 8 th Amendment of the United States Constitution.  Let me explain. Mr. A is a new prisoner.  He suffers from cerebral palsy.  He reports to HFP, “I need to get back on my prescribed medication ASAP.”  The prison system simply explains:  “You were not approved for this medication by the regional medical director in Lansing.  Will forward your request.”  He asks:  “So I’m wondering what I shall do in the meantime.  I’ve been waiting since I arrived on December 27!”  He's in pain. Mr. B is a chemist, biologist and geologist who, while working as a civilian contractor, was accidentally exposed to nerve agents.  As a result, he has severe COPD.  Prior to his arrest, he was told by doctors to sleep in a chair to reduce lung problems.  At most prison units he was allowed to do this…until February 5, when without warning the prison refused to a

BLACK HISTORY MONTH, more meaningful than ever!

I’m 80. When I was a child, we didn’t think it was black discrimination. As a tiny tot, my mom read a book to me about Little Black Sambo. When kids didn’t know how to make a decision, or how to choose, we said “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe, catch a ni**er by his toe!”  Sorry, I just can’t make myself say that word, or even type it. When we bought a package of mixed nuts to serve our company in the holiday season, the Brazil nuts were called, “ni**er toes.” My cousins went to Alabama to visit with their aunt and uncle and cousins, and returned to joke about separate drinking fountains down south for whites and blacks. And things didn’t improve when I grew up. One of my first bosses, at a Christian radio station that featured predominately religious programming, urged me to persuade an elderly man on the staff to polish my car for me.  He said he could make it shine “like a ni**er’s heel!” As late as the 1990s, a devout co-worker was referring to African Ameri

Disappointment. A way of life in this business!

Matt had a bad day yesterday. It’s getting more and more difficult to accept invitations to be a prisoner’s representative at a Parole Board hearing.  With a case file now exceeding 1,000, we can’t be at the side of a every prisoner who asks.  But Rick’s case was exceptional.  He’s facing a serious diagnosis of cancer, and the aggressive treatment that he needs probably won’t come in the prison system.  So Matt, Executive Director of HFP, agreed to be in Jackson yesterday to sit at his side during for the important interview with a member of the Parole Board. Matt never got in. He and I have done numerous Parole Board interviews in the past without problems, and without LEIN clearance.  But this time the officer at the desk insisted that, because Matt’s name had not been cleared by the Law Enforcement Information Network, he would not be allowed to participate in the meeting. Keep in mind that Jackson isn’t next door.  Our office is in Grand Haven, which makes it a two