Tuesday, September 5, 2017

When prisoners deflected my end-of-summer blues

Jean, Michael, Scott, Shirlee. I’m sure those names mean nothing to you. But to me, they made the difference between darkness and light last week. To explain, I hate when summer comes to an end, and it’s almost like I’m in mourning in those final days of August. Four prisoners were among many who wouldn’t let me sing the end-of-summer blues this year.

From Huron Valley, Michigan’s only prison for women, a place from which we’ve received a ton of complaints about staff problems, came a surprising and refreshing request from Jean. She observed that too many of the officers at WHV are working too many hours, and she asked if we could do something about it. These officers are working sixteen plus hours daily on a regular basis and they are getting burned out. This affects us prisoners because the officers are short tempered, are too tired to proper manage the housing units they are assigned to, and occasionally they are falling asleep on the job. I don't blame them; they are completely exhausted and wiped out. My concern is not only for their safety (driving while exhausted, etc.) but for our safety as well. How well can we be protected when their response time to a crisis is diminished? How can the drug abuse be monitored properly when officers are too tired to care?  What a turn of events! Prisoners advocating for staff.

A slip in our post office box indicated that we had an oversize package waiting for us from Ionia. Prisoners sometimes ask if they can help us raise funds, and that’s the last we hear about it. Michael was among them, but he did something. A gifted artist, he used our photos of Grand Haven’s iconic lighthouse to create a series of original lighthouse paintings that are award winning. When I opened the package it felt like Christmas morning! No note. No invoice. Just something he wanted to do for HFP. They’ll sell, and those dollars will go to work for us.

Speaking of dollars, a check arrived in the mail, sadly one of only a few that crossed my desk last week. It came from Scott, a prisoner in Jackson. The amount:  7 dollars. That may not seem like a lot to you, but I happen to know that his take home wage is $19 a month! We’re one of three agencies to receive his donations quarterly. I feel called of God to do it, says Scott!

Then came this nice note from Shirlee: I woke up today thinking about all you do for the women here at Huron Valley. HFP has made its impact on our little society here in the most wonderful way! From our clothes, to cleaning supplies, to medication, to health care, food, segregation, one-on-one, the list just continues. But when you put it all together you really can see just how much we mean to HFP. We love you!

Beauty, sunshine, love, kindness, from the place where you might least expect it. God’s little way of pointing out that, in my daily work with inmates, there’s really no room for end-of-summer blues.

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