Showing posts from July, 2018

Healthcare delayed is healthcare denied!

We’re seeing a disturbing trend in Michigan prison healthcare, and I find it upsetting. It can be described in one word: delay. John has a cyst in his throat, near the vocal cords, and health care says he needs surgery. Yet it doesn’t happen. New tests show that Scott’s cancer has metastasized and is spreading along his spine and his neck. He needs to see his oncologist now. Yet it doesn’t happen. David is in terrible pain. They say he needs thoracic surgery. Yet it doesn’t happen. We are blessed to have a team of wonderful physicians on our panel of consultants, and they are constantly frustrated and alarmed by these delays. It’s as if the prison healthcare people are thinking along the same lines as Mark Twain: “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.” One has to wonder whether it is a simple issue of procrastination, by unconcerned and uncaring people who are just collecting their paychecks. Or is it something deeper than t

Wasting dollars and lives, say Doug & Ricardo

I have long contended that the State of Michigan could save a ton of money by releasing aging prisoners who pose a threat to no one. Let me throw out a few numbers. We have about 39,000 people in the state prison system, and it costs us about $36,000 per person per year to keep them there. Of that 39,000, more than 3,000 are age 60 and older: 8.1% of the Michigan prison population. And in that group, about 70-80 are 80 years of age and older! Now common sense will tell you that if it costs $36,000 to care for the average, healthy prisoner, it’s going to cost double or triple that amount to care for these old-timers. Ricardo Ferrell, a 60-Year-old   Michigan prisoner with who enjoys writing essays, helps us with this topic. Despite serving over 43 years on a parolable life sentence, Darnell, 66, sits languishing in a Michigan prison even after being assessed by the MDOC as h

Guest Post: Tony and Joe

HFP Vice President Holly Honig-Josephson and her husband Tony recently drove to the U.P. for a prison visit. Here is Tony’s story: As I left Kinross Prison in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and drove south across the Mackinac Bridge, a disturbing and unsettled feeling kept creeping into my subconscious. I had spent the weekend there visiting my friend. Joe is serving a life sentence for robbing an ice cream push cart with a friend when he was 18 years old. They used a broken pellet gun as the weapon. During the robbery, which he openly admits, he stole $27 and an ice cream sandwich. Ironically, he also made change and served ice cream to a child who was unaware of what was occurring. He had no prior offenses, and the accomplice with him who held the gun during the crime received 7 years. He received life. This was in 1981. He’s now 56. During my visit, he and I discussed things that normal friends do. Books and politics took up a lot of the discussion. Also music. He has a

On judging the path if you haven't walked the journey

Father Greg Boyle was talking about gang members in Los Angeles. But he just as well could have been talking about prisoners in Michigan. Every homie I know who has killed somebody---everyone---has carried a load one hundred times heavier than I have had to carry, weighed down by torture, violence, abuse, neglect, abandonment, or mental illness. Most of us have never borne that weight. We are free not to like that truth, but we are not free to deny it. We’ve had a team working on commutation applications for persons in the Michigan prison system for the past year. As a part of this process, we ask them to prepare answers for the application form questions, which we then review. We do this not only to correct the errors of spelling and grammar, but to make certain that the answer is complete and appropriate. Reading the words of these offenders is not for the faint of heart. First, there are the descriptions of the actual crimes, including the surroundings and the circumst

Questions for Michigan candidates

Are you getting sick of the campaign ads? Tired about hearing all the dirt against the opponent, who’s getting endorsed by whom, who’s the most attached to former office holders, who's really a conservative and who's a fake, who’s to blame for bad water in Flint, why marijuana should not be legal but carrying guns into school should be, and why it’s time to “fix the damn roads?” It continues ad nauseum, and it’s only going to get worse. The Michigan primary is approaching, yet there’s one item on the budget that seems to get no attention: corrections. Wanna know just how much is being spent to run our state prison system? $5+ million per day! We think that qualifies this topic for some discussion. Oh, if you push the candidates hard enough, you may hear praise for Michigan’s lowering recidivism rate, and our improved college and vocational programs for prisoners. To be fair, the department deserves these kudos. But here are some of the things I’d like to h

Having trouble making ends meet? Try it behind bars!

Once again I’m reading anxious messages that cross my desk, and I’m feeling that it’s time to ask a few questions of my own. Here goes. Three questions for the Michigan Department of Corrections: Would you consider raising the wages of Michigan prisoners? No one can remember when the last wage increase took place. Prisoners still earn between $.84 and $3.34 PER DAY! Not per hour! It may take a woman two weeks’ wages to purchase a package of tampons. An ailing prisoner may have to work a couple weeks to buy a phone card. Would you consider eliminating the medical co-pay for Michigan prisoners? All inmates in our state prison system must pay $5.00 every time they make a visit to the doctor’s office, even though they may just see a nurse or a P.A. Do the math. It could be two weeks’ worth of wages. As a result, healthcare visits get neglected or avoided, and health risks increase. Some states are doing away with the co-pay, and such action is past due in Michigan. Would

On BIG visual experiences for former prisoners

It was the summer of 1964. As a young radio station owner/manager, I had attended a meeting in the City of Grand Haven, but had left my car downtown. Mayor Bill Creason offered to give me a ride. As we turned west on the main street, the sun was setting and the Musical Fountain was performing. The view was stunning! “I am so bullish on Grand Haven,” said the Mayor. I’ve never forgotten that visual experience, or that statement. When pulling our camper to Little Glen Lake each summer, my little buddy Matthew, riding in the front seat with me, would watch for that first view of the lake’s heavenly blue water as we crested a hill on northbound M-22. When heading to the Upper Peninsula, I never tired of looking north as I drove over the last bridge on US 31 before it joins I-75. I savored that first glimpse of the “Mighty Mac.” These experiences are coming back to me after a telephone chat this afternoon with my friend Deno, recently released from prison after serving 48 year

4th of July: Mixed Emotions

Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. Abraham Lincoln I’m convinced Ol’ Honest Abe was right, but I’ll bet he’d have some second thoughts if he saw what was going on today: People in high office flirting with autocracy, serious threats to freedom of speech, dangerous talk against a free press, making a mockery of the Statue of Liberty’s words of welcome. But on this Fourth of July, I’m still going to celebrate. “To every thing there is a season,” says the teacher in Ecclesiastes: “…A  time to weep , and a  time to laugh…” That’s especially true on our country’s birthday. I’m thinking we should do both. On this Independence Day, let’s once again take a moment to celebrate and give thanks for the document that bears these words: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and