Do NOT throw away the key!
I love visiting with lifers!
These are the persons a former director of the MDOC shamefully called “the worst of the worst!”
How often have you heard the phrase, “Lock him up and throw away the key?” Those of us who are tough on crime and hate lawlessness love to say things like that. Or even worse: “Give him the electric chair. I’ll be the first to throw the switch!”
All that stuff is on my mind this week because Matt and I spent a couple hours in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Monday chatting with lifers at the Chippewa Correctional Facility, invited there by the National Lifers Association.
I guess the name needs a bit of explanation first.
The NLA was founded some 40 years ago by five men at the State Prison of Southern Michigan in Jackson. It’s a pioneer in the movement for prison reform driven by people who are themselves behind bars. There’s a chapter in every Michigan prison. And, despite the name, it’s primarily a Michigan organization.
The NLA’s primary mission is to affect positive changes in State laws and MDOC policies which impact the entire state prisoner population. The ultimate goal is to achieve the release of those genuinely rehabilitated prisoners who no longer represent a danger to public safety or property, and who will become productive citizens.
We interacted with more than 50 lifers, in two one-hour sessions. Both meetings were so stimulating that I have asked the MDOC for permission to make a video. As you might imagine, even though it would be good PR for them and for us, they aren’t excited about it.
The men were thrilled to hear that we could help them with the frequent cases of poor or inadequate or inappropriate medical care. They were excited to hear that someone could help them file requests under the Freedom of Information Act, because Michigan is one of only 3 states that won’t allow prisoners to get access to their legal records. They were touched to hear that we could help them find long-lost family members and loved ones, as we have done for so many already!
At the conclusion of each session, these men, rejected and thrown away by so many, waited in line to personally shake our hands and tearfully thank us for helping them.
In both sessions, Matt wore
his HFP t-shirt which assured each person there: You matter.
What an honor to be invited! God bless the NLA in its pursuit of these noble goals.