Cindy Anderson may have a point.
Cindy, former board chair of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS, still serves as a director. And when she heard the news that the Michigan legislature had passed a series of bills making elderly, frail prisoners eligible for parole, she insisted that we had something to do with it.
My immediate reaction was to refute that contention, because we really don’t get involved in lobbying and legislation. But Cindy was holding to her position. She pointed out that we’ve been seeking better and more compassionate care for the aged and ailing behind bars for 18 years. And when an agency doesn’t let up over that period of time, the message is bound to get out and the effort is likely to spread.
Well, she’s definitely right about our aims and goals.
After all, it was an elderly and sickly human being that helped form this organization. Maurice Carter had not only served 29 years for a crime he did not commit, but he was also dying of Hepatitis C because of poor diagnosis and care in prison. By the time we were able to get a compassionate release for Maurice it was too late for a liver transplant, and he lived in freedom for only three months.
Three years before he left this earth, however---at his suggestion---I founded what was then known as INNOCENT.
In our early days, thinking we would focus primarily on wrongful convictions, I was approached one day in the parking lot by a young, teen-aged black woman. “Are you Mr. Doug?” she asked. I have no idea how she knew me, found me, and knew what I did for a living…but she broke into sobs. Her imprisoned father had cancer and was dying. Could I get him out, to be with his family in his final days? This was all new to me. I tried, and I failed. Too little too late. I was the only white person attending her father’s funeral service.
Since that day we never let up, finally changing our name to HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS to better reflect our mission.
And Cindy is absolutely correct. Since those early days, we have passionately struggled to get better care for the elderly and dying in prison, compassionate releases for the terminally ill, and improved visitation for families of the dying. It has been an uphill fight. Still is.
So, the signature by Governor Whitmer on those recent bills was most welcome!
We’ve already started submitting names of deserving clients. And, we’ll proudly accept Cindy Anderson’s belief that efforts by prisoner advocates on behalf of ailing old-timers contributed to the victory of this small step forward.
We must not stop now!