Saturday, May 13, 2017

You can't visit your kids in prison, Susan, but Happy Mother's Day, anyway.

Each year at Mother’s day I write about moms of prisoners, or moms who are in prison.

This year, for a change, I’m going to write about only one mom.  Her name is Susan, she’s black, and she lives in Detroit on fixed income.  Susan had five children:  four boys and a girl.  Life hasn’t been a bowl of cherries. Two of her sons are in prison, and one was killed.  As we chatted, she expressed concern over one of her incarcerated sons who has been in segregation now for 6 months, which means he’s in a cell 23 hours a day. He's dealing with severe depression.

In the course of our conversation I asked if she had visited him recently.  That’s when she dropped this little bombshell:  She hasn’t visited either son in prison for two years.  Visitation has been denied by the State of Michigan because she has unpaid traffic fines!

You may have read about a class action suit filed against Michigan’s Secretary of State, claiming that traffic fine laws discriminate against the poor.  The suit claims that over the last three years more than 100,000 Michiganders have lost their driver’s licenses simply because they are too poor to pay these fines and costs.

That, in itself, is a huge issue.  But if we’re also denying prison visits to those who owe traffic fines, it becomes even more complicated…more severe.  We went to the top to ask, and even on a Saturday were granted the courtesy of a response.

Owing some traffic fines isn't necessarily an issue, but if those unpaid fines have resulted in a bench warrant being issued, we won't allow admittance. The reason for this is if someone comes to an MDOC property with outstanding warrants, we'd be obligated to contact law enforcement to see if they want to arrest them. That wouldn't be a good situation for anyone.  So while those warrants are outstanding, we simply deny entrance to our property…we ask that the person resolve any pending police or court matters.

I suspect Susan is not the only passenger in this boat.  Because her budget leaves no room to pay up old traffic tickets, visitation of family members in prison is not possible.  Sorry.

Kind of lends itself to a growing philosophy, it seems to me, that if the poor would just get off their collective butts they could pay their bills like the rest of us, and then they wouldn’t have these problems.  Life should be so simple.

Said the writer of Proverbs:  Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker…

Happy Mother’s Day, Susan.

Prayers for all moms wearing shoes like hers.


Mary Kay Heaven said...

Do you know how much she owes? Is there a way to help her?


Blessings to the many mothers impacted by mass incarceration.