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. (Recent reports are that progress is finally being made, but HFP has a long list of women afflicted with the problem!)
-We get apples and bananas to eat, but no citrus. We have begged to get our oranges back. Lack of vitamin C is a serious problem.
-Our dental floss was taken away and replaced with plastic rubber band type floss. It’s expensive and awful.
-We’ve begged the Director to let us continue to purchase typewriters for our Law Library through the PBS fund. Deaf ears so far.
I was privileged to have a private meeting with Director Washington shortly after she was named to that position in 2015. I relayed complaints to her from WHV at that time. She was new on the job, but assured me that women were high on her list of priorities and that she would eventually visit there.
To her credit, a new WHV warden was appointed and that was a positive step, but more positive steps are needed.
Grumbles a friend of HFP: As far as Ms. Washington goes, her credibility was tarnished when she made statements to the newspapers that this place is not overcrowded. I live in a housing unit with 200 women and a day-room with capacity for only 42. That means most women must stay in their rooms…not mentally or physically healthy. Overcrowding has meant thinner portions of food, less clothing, inadequate healthcare and diseases.
Director Washington has a new boss now, a woman. Hopefully she will get support from the top in moving forward toward more humanitarian care of our women behind bars.