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All writing is a form of prayer - John Keats

Thursday, September 26, 2019

You'd better listen to a whistle-blower!


Some readers are going to accuse me of being very political with this piece. That’s your call.

The topic of “whistle-blowing” is big news today, because it involves the President of the United States. Regardless of your political affiliation, I have something to say to you: You’d better listen to a whistle-blower!

I go back to the year 2014, when MDOC personnel at our only prison for women, Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility, were accused of mistreating and abusing mentally ill inmates in the acute care section. There were charges of hog-tying, tasing, excessive use of pepper spray, and food and water deprivation. We’re talking about the treatment of human beings here, not animals in the dog pound.

We could do nothing about this without the help of whistle-blowers. And yes, they came through! I had in my possession a stack of affidavits scribbled out on scrap pieces of paper. Prisoners don’t have access to legal pads, and all the other paraphernalia that we might use to put together a proper legal statement. They used what they could find. These affidavits from prisoners who witnessed cruelty and abuse were smuggled to me by a gutsy inmate who later won a legal battle with the State of Michigan. But that’s another story.

My tribute, today, is to whistle-blowers.

It’s very easy, especially in today’s story, to claim that there’s political motive, or interest in personal gain. But that’s pure and unadulterated baloney! It’s no fun being a whistle-blower. You have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Unless, that is, you’re hoping to expose the truth. Unless, that is, you’re hoping to bring about change.

I’m proud to say that thanks to some daring whistle-blowers at Huron Valley, subsequent action by our office led to involvement not only by the American Civil Liberties Union, but also the U. S. Department of Justice! The courageous women who dared sign their names will be proud to learn that those little scraps of paper made their way into the files of the ACLU, and led to a lengthy letter of demands to the prison warden and the Department of Corrections.

The acute unit for the mentally ill in Huron Valley isn’t perfect these days. But there is improvement.

I salute, today, every whistle-blower, from the bottom to the top.

The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.
Albert Einstein


1 comment:

Lena Pyne said...

I applaud all the whistleblowers, they take an enormous risk and open themselves up to retribution but without these brave people nothing will ever change and prisoners will continue to be treated like cattle. I understand that there are people in prison who have committed heinous acts and deserve to be in prison. There also those who are in prison for crimes that don't fit the punishment they have received and of course there are those who have been wrongfully convicted. Regardless, every human being deserves to be treated humanely and without prejudice. This is America, not a third world country, yet the conditions within most prisons and the way that prisoners are treated are some of the worst in the world. If no one stands up nothing will ever change!