Yep, Here in Pure Michigan, we've got prison problems! Especially staff!

Although prisoners do not have full constitutional rights, they are protected by the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. This protection also requires that prisoners be afforded a minimum standard of living.

Legal Information Instititute 

And I contend, Ladies and Gentlemen, that a “minimum standard of living” just ain’t happening! Not in our Michigan prisons. A key reason: critical staff shortage! 

Consider this data, compiled by Kay Perry of MI-CURE and Ted Roelofs, of Bridge Michigan. 

-Approximately 900 staff shortages in the MDOC (1 in 6 positions vacant!)

-Corrections Officers are working 80-hours/week with mandatory overtime 

In addition to the impact on the daily lives of the more than 30,000 men and women who occupy our prisons, just consider the damage among the staff when you expect people to work 16-hour shifts. 

-41% meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder

-25% meet the criteria for alcohol abuse

-An average of nearly 5 suicides per year

-50 employees a month are retiring or leaving for other reasons

-Staff complain of little time for sleep, let alone family time. 

To its credit, the state is improving wages and benefits this fall. Hopefully that will make some impact. Hopefully that will slow down the speeding train of employees heading home. 

My point, though, is this. We can (and should!) clamor for prison reform, but it’s hard to start reforming the system when you don’t even have enough people to work there. Meanwhile, guess who catch the brunt of all this? The incarcerated, those men and women who are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution to a decent minimum standard of living. 

I often quote this neat passage from the Book of Hebrews: “…remember those in prison as if you were together with them.” 

A clear message that must be sent to Michigan legislators. Spending time debating whether elections are fair, whether we should still be bowing to a former president, whether we should ban books that deal with things we don’t like, whether devotion to party comes before state or country, is so counterproductive. Our prisons need reform! Not someday! Right now! These problems are not going to disappear if we ignore them. 

May the groans of the prisoners come before you

Psalm 79:2

 

 

 

 


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