Showing posts from January, 2019

Doug says "Thank You" to prisoners!

Now that I’m well on the road to recovery, it’s appropriate for me to send a special message of thanks to many Michigan prisoners. Their response to my recent heart problems has me thinking about the words of Sister Helen Prejean when she was in town last fall. She could have been talking about my state of mind back when we formed HFP. “I cannot walk away from this. I cannot put my head on the pillow at night as though this is not going on. And then by God's grace we move. We begin to take simple steps. We write letters, we do visits. I know how overwhelming it is. I know sometimes you must feel like you are the smallest little Rolaid in the biggest stomach in the world because there are so many needs. We go into prison, we turn to each other, and we keep going back. We make a commitment that we will not abandon them, that we will be with them and we will work for justice until the dawn comes, until justice comes in this one life…” Nearly 20 years later, following my

When will things change for the mentally ill?

I honestly don’t know how to write about this subject anymore. A series of weekend articles in the M-Live newspapers has prompted me to write about mental illness one more time. Their focus is on the relationship between untreated mentally ill people and their deadly threat to our police officers. Not meaning to minimize the threat to those in law enforcement, I want to concentrate on the actual people who are mentally challenged. I say we’re not giving them a fair shake. In fact, I contend that we’re dropping the ball. I hear some Democrats say, “Fix the damn roads!” My response is, “What about people?” Fact: 257,000 Michiganders suffer from severe mental illness. Fact: Michigan has closed all but four state psychiatric hospitals. Fact: These hospitals have a 200-bed waiting list. Fact: Michigan ranks 47 th in the nation when it comes to beds available. I hear some Republicans say, “Protect the unborn!” My response is, “What about those already born?”

Too much itching! Is it time to scratch?

We’ve remained silent long enough on the skin rash issue at Michigan’s only prison for women. For over a year, women at Huron Valley near Ypsilanti have been complaining about this problem. Already last February, prison doctors ruled out scabies. Now, nearly one year later, an outside doctor offered proof: Yep, it’s scabies! Dermatologist Dr. Walter Barkey, whose name showed up a lot during the Flint water crisis as he checked out skin rashes, finally made his way into WHV with his microscope. It took some doing, but he has a friend with a relative in the prison. Using that wedge, he finally made it. Now, following absolute proof of the cause, the entire prison is closed to visitors, and all prison residents---more than 2,000 women---are undergoing treatment for scabies. We use this story to beg the question, once again, as to the effectiveness of Corizon, the private health services provider under contract with the Michigan Department of Corrections. Our Medical Dire

Will 2019 bring more compassion to WHV?

With a woman at the top, can we expect more and better response to women at the bottom?  Let’s hope so. Some 2,000 women behind bars in Michigan, all residents of the Huron Valley facility, have been less than pleased with the woman who heads the Michigan Department of Corrections. One of our friends listed a few of the major complaints when she heard that incoming Governor Gretchen Whitmer had reappointed Heidi Washington to run the MDOC. -Those restrictive mail regulations happened on her (Director Washington’s) watch. -They have done nothing to stop the flow of drugs into this prison. There are more drugs here than ever.   Obviously, they didn’t come through the mail. -Director Washington has been unresponsive to the outbreak of a serious rash that has infected many women in here.   People have not been properly quarantined, putting everyone at risk.   They don’t know what has caused it and nothing they have done has cured the rash.   Women are suffering in here. (Rece

Changed life? Maybe for the Apostle Paul, but what about today!

At about the time that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced the names of 61 prisoners who were granted pardon or commutation, I began reading Mitch Albom’s delightful book Have a Little Faith. As an unashamed advocate for prisoners, I was particularly touched by the true story of Pastor Henry Covington, whose earlier life was infected with crime in the drug culture. His conversion experience wasn’t all that much different than Saul of Tarsus, and he went on to form I AM MY BROTHER’S KEEPER CHURCH in Detroit. He spent the rest of his life feeding the poor and housing the homeless…at no charge, under any and all conditions, with no questions asked. Christianity in its rawest form. And that reminded me of how little forgiveness we find in society today, and perhaps in our own lives. Each time the Parole Board announces the name of a prisoner who is being released, we see a media frenzy, it seems. Details of the heinous crime of 40 years ago are regurgitated, and family member

Many deserve clemency. Few get it!

What’s it going to take to improve chances of clemency in Michigan? Just before Christmas, then Governor Rick Snyder announced the names of 61 prisoners to be freed. To many observers, this number was far too low. James Hicks, good friend of ours, was among the 61. But here’s the deal: If the bar stays that high for clemency consideration, very few will ever get out! James was sentenced to 50-200 years for alleged involvement in an armed robbery in 1986. Then the story gets interesting. Just 3 years after going to prison, he made a conscious decision to turn his life around. He was hearing and seeing too many things that were pricking his conscience. So, he began working with authorities to help solve cases. I personally know of at least 8 cases where he helped state and federal agencies in making numerous arrests for bribery, auto theft, stolen property, telephone fraud, narcotics and murder. Prisoners don’t like snitches, and James didn’t get adequate protec