For this octogenarian, born and raised in a computer-less generation, technical advances are just incomprehensible. My mind can’t begin to understand it.
I saw some video clips from an Amazon warehouse recently, explaining how same-day and next-day delivery services are implemented for catalog customers all over the nation.
I still remember the day that a Calvin College official took me into a large, temperature and humidity-controlled room back in the 70s, to show off that institution’s new state-of-the-art computer system. The room was filled with giant pieces of electronic equipment, many of them with what appeared to be tape recorders herking and jerking, clicking and popping.
Now I’m told that the computer in my cell phone can do more than that room full of stuff!
All this leads me to a discussion of an area that concerns many families. The Michigan Department of Corrections spends $30-million a year to transfer inmates from one facility to another. There are many reasons for transfers. Some facilities offer specific programs that an inmate must complete. Others have certain vocational programs. Some are offering college courses. Unusual healthcare needs can only be met in certain facilities. Then there are court dates and public hearings. Besides that, prisoners die and prisoners are released. Beds must be filled. And so inmates are transferred from prison to prison, some 30 different locations.
We’d like the department to add one more factor to the transfer process: geographic location of friends and loved ones.
Corrections officials recognize the importance of family visits:
-keeping the family intact
-improving chances for reentry into society
-reducing chances of re-offending
-improving prisoner morale.
And yet, it is very apparent that family accessibility plays little or no role in where prisoners are transferred.
David, who was ticket-free for 18 years---a model prisoner known for his skills in tutoring and dog-training---was ordered to pack up early one morning, and was shipped off to the Upper Peninsula. His elderly parents in Grand Rapids found it difficult to make that 6-hour drive. Joyce, elderly black woman in Detroit battling cancer, learned that her son had been transferred to a prison even farther away in the U.P. There was no way she could make that trip in her old car. We hear complaints like this regularly.
There’s gotta be a better way!
If we want to do more than just provide programs, just keep these people behind bars until their release date…if we want to help them stay sane, keep their families intact, prepare for re-entry and stay out of trouble, then we must do better.
If Amazon’s computer can find the right pair of socks for me in another state, and arrange to have them delivered to my door the next morning, our state computers can include family locations among all the other deciding factors for prison transfers.
Visitation by family and loved ones deserves higher consideration.
Now. Not someday.