Showing posts from August, 2021

Got a toothache? Who cares?

  “For there was never yet a philosopher that could endure the toothache patiently.” — William Shakespeare   We don’t do a lot of thinking about our teeth. Not until something goes wrong...cavity perhaps, maybe a broken tooth. Then we call our dentist. Need help right away.   'T’ain’t that way in Michigan prisons, however, and it may take a lawsuit to change it.   Here’s the sad story about our Michigan Department of Corrections. Prisoners cannot get dental care during their first two years in prison!  The only time they can is if the treatment is considered urgent — and being toothless does not count!   The amazing thing is the MDOC doesn’t see anything wrong with this!   Department spokesman Chris Gautz told a writer for the Marshall Project that the agency’s dental care (or lack of) does not violate the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment and is “far better than what the majority of the prisoners received prior to entering prison.” As if that makes an

Credit where credit is due. Many COs doing a fine job!

I was the guest speaker for a group of senior citizens. While describing conditions in Michigan’s prisons I made some disparaging remarks about a few Correctional Officers who were giving one of our clients a bad time.   During the Q and A session following my presentation, a very nice gray-haired woman raised her hand. “I just want to say,” she said, “that not all Correctional Officers behave the way you described.” She went on to add, “My son is a Correctional Officer. He has a college degree. He takes his work seriously, gives his best every day, and he’s proud of his work!”   That was a very important reminder for me, and for all of us in this prisoner advocacy business.   It’s very much like those “rotten apple cops” who make all police officers look bad. Because of some misbehavior, we get to thinking that all cops must be mean and crooked, even though we know better.   So it is with Correctional Officers.   We hear and read reports of COs abusing and neglecting the men

Wrongful convictions: A bad taste in the mouth of prosecutors!

I’m watching Lester Holt this week, and that gets me to wondering if we’ll ever learn how to treat people who are wrongly convicted.   Face it. Michigan doesn’t have a stellar record in this field.   What a revelation it was for me, as a seasoned broadcast journalist, to dive into the sea of wrongful convictions back in the mid-90s. One of the things that absolutely blew my mind back then, and still does today, is the very real resistance that arises within our alleged system of justice.   In the Maurice Carter case, we had actual proof of the real shooter’s identity, but no one would do anything about it!   Yes, between the desire to save face and the hidden desire to prevent exonerees from collecting money that rightfully belongs to them for years spent behind bars, Michigan has little to be proud of.   But, Missouri is worse!   Back to Lester Holt. NBC news did a feature on the plight of one Lamar Johnson. Mr. Johnson is in prison for a murder two other people confessed

Open the door, MI!

No question about it: Isolation due to COVID nearly drove many of us crazy!   From our friends, from our neighbors, in the news, we heard reports of such psychological disorders as anxiety and panic, insomnia, digestive problems, depression, loneliness, and irritability. Sadly, the suicide rate was up.   Psychology experts point out that human beings are not “designed” to manage segregation, even for 10 days, let alone for a long period of time. Duh! As the Greek philosopher Aristotle reminds us, man is a “social animal.”   I’ve got news for you. After hearing our complaints, more than 3,000 Michigan prisoners have little sympathy. These prisoners are caged in a 7x9 foot cell for more than 20 hours a day! They’re in solitary confinement. They were there before COVID. They’ll be there after COVID unless we do something about it.   The HFP team is especially aware of this, not only because some of our clients are in seg, but also because our office is supporting Citizens for Pris

Whistleblowers - Genuine Heroes!

It takes a lot of courage to be a whistleblower. Just ask those women who dared to speak up about New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s outrageous behavior.   In one of the New York Times pieces that I read, the writer reported a “campaign of retaliation” against any person who dared challenge the Governor’s suggestive words and actions. In fact, the story said, options were so bleak for those hoping to expose this toxicity that many just chose to tough it out. They needed the job. They needed the paycheck.   The story reminds me of some amazing whistleblowers who helped us expose problems in the Michigan prison system over the years.   -There was a plumber who risked his contract with the MDOC just to tell us about a rotten situation at Women’s Huron Valley. -Speaking of WHV, there was a list of gutsy women who risked their valuable prison jobs by smuggling affidavits to us accusing officers of abusing mental patients, resulting in interference by the ACLU and investigation by the