All writing is a form of prayer - John Keats

Monday, July 9, 2018

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 you consider more price regulation for items purchased by prisoners? Case in point: canned tuna, a coveted product for inmates because of the dismal food situation in state prisons, has gone from $2.25 to $2.81 to $3.74 in the past six months! That’s comparable to one day’s wages for the lucky inmate…one week’s pay for the less fortunate.

Conclusion: The question of wages paid for prison labor is important, when you consider the relative costs of fees charges and things sold to our inmates. The value of a dollar is different when you earn pennies per hour!

Says Prison Policy Initiative: Making it hard for incarcerated people to earn real money hurts their chances of success when they are released, too. With little to no savings, how can they possibly afford the immediate costs of food, housing, healthcare, transportation, child support, and supervision fees?

The Michigan Department of Corrections is making commendable strides in fields such as vocational training and college education. We cannot, in good conscience, continue to ignore prisoner finance problems.

Also, in this election year, make sure you know where your state candidates stand on these issues. There’s a lot of campaign talk about Michigan roads and infrastructure, public schools, jobs and the economy. Yet, the biggest item in the budget is prisons, and we hear nothing!

We have 39,000 people in the Michigan prison system, (a shameful number, by the way) and 90% of them are going to get out someday. It’s time to think about them and their very practical needs right now. Make your voices heard. No more waiting. No more procrastination.

“…remember those in prison as if you were together with them.” Hebrews 13:13

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