Showing posts from January, 2022

Another death in prison. Another day.

“Each human should die in the sight of a loving face,” Mother Theresa.   Our heart breaks every time we hear about another death behind bars with no loving face in sight. Over the past 20 years we have seen so many situations that could have been different, could have been better, kinder, more humane.   Here in Michigan, because we keep our prisoners behind bars for so long, our population is aging, and that means more will die while incarcerated. Traditionally our state has 75-80 inmates who are 80 and older! Some are in wheelchairs. Some on oxygen. What could possibly be the purpose in keeping these oldsters locked up? Does anyone really think they’re going to reoffend? Besides that, the cost of caring for these people is double or triple the normal expense. Ah, well...preaching to the choir, I know.   What I’m leading up to here, is a discussion about how to lend a little more dignity to the situation.   Each year, some 4,000 people die in state prisons...more than 100 right

No "Give 'em hell" this time! Just a warm, fuzzy.

I had two ideas for blog postings today. Both had teeth in them.   I wanted to write a follow-up to that public demonstration outside Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility on Sunday. I so appreciated all of the people who showed up to protest the way we’re treating women in our Michigan prison system! One participant told me there were two bus-loads of people, and that cars were lined up and down the street. God bless those brave souls who weren’t worried about cold temps and slippery sidewalks!   I also wanted to write about rising costs for prisoners, after Matt posted a note from a guy who was explaining the crunch that people behind bars are facing. True, the minimum wage went up for Michigan workers. True, prices keep going up inside and outside of prison. BUT, no wage increase for prison workers, if they’re lucky enough to get a job. Maddening!   But then I thought, “Maybe it’s time for a warm and fuzzy.” We sometimes forget just how important they are.   I was just

Bon appetit!

Today I want to talk about prison cuisine and Alex Friedmann.   Alex Friedmann is managing editor of PRISON LEGAL NEWS. But when it comes to prison food, he knows what he’s talking about.   From 1987 to 1999, he served a total of 10 years in Tennessee state and county jails. While incarcerated, he saw the stereotypically abysmal trays of overboiled vegetables, mystery meat, white bread, and sodas, but he also saw food being leveraged as further punishment by prison officials. For instance, inmates were occasionally served so-called “food loaf,” which contains an entire tray of food—meat, dessert, bread, vegetables—mashed together and baked. We’ve heard numerous stories about “food loaf” in Michigan.   “It’s a terrible, awful thing, and they serve it,” he says.   I’m bringing up the topic, because the COVID crisis seems to have made the problem even worse in Michigan prisons.   Said one of my friends: “...had a slimy bologna sandwich for lunch and cold, gummy mac & cheese

It's no way to treat your mom!

Suppose, through some unpleasant series of events, your mother, or sister, or daughter ended up in prison. And then suppose that this message from her showed up in your inbox this week. Your response?   “This is absolutely cruel and unusual punishment! I have tested negative for COVID 19. So, this prison, WHV, decided it was a good idea to lock me up in a unit (Emmett) that’s been closed down due to unlivable conditions over 6 months ago. We have no hot water for showers or washing our hands. We've had no clean laundry for 6 days now. No  commissary store. And, they serve us ice cold food from the chow hall. This unit has one microwave oven that barely works at all.   “All our mail and grievances sit in milkcrates on the desk, not going anywhere.   “There is no heat in this 16-man cell that they placed us in. My bunk is next to an outside door that leaks into the cell and is covered in mold. We have one hot-pot for hot water and were told not to drink it, that it’s for laundr

2022: The year of the free phone call?

On Thanksgiving weekend Washington Post columnist Katrina vanden Heuvel lamented the fact that, during the holiday season, high prison and jail telephone rates would limit family time for those living behind bars.   Said Ms. vanden Heuvel: “...many incarcerated people are charged steep fees to make phone calls to the outside world. On average, a 15-minute call costs $5.74, with some prisons charging a dollar or more per minute — not counting tacked-on hidden fees that can increase overall costs by up to 40 percent.”   Michigan prison telephone calls cost .14 a minute.   The Washington Post piece reported that the correctional telecom industry rakes in more than $1.4 billion annually from prisoner phone calls. And, that means, of course, that the cost is generally passed on to the families of incarcerated people — who are disproportionately low-income, and disproportionately people of color.   While it was the holiday season that prompted the columnist to write about this topic,