On things I’m not reading, and why that makes me cross!
I’m reading a lot about the UAW (United Auto Workers union) these days. Auto workers are on strike, hoping to get better wages and working conditions from the big three automakers. The UAW boasts about 12,700 members.
I’m not reading a lot about another union: MCO (Michigan Corrections Organization). The MCO Service Employees International Union, which represents about 6,000 Corrections Officers and other MDOC employees, is facing a major issue.
I’m reading a lot about Michigan’s Governor and Democratic-controlled senate and house, and their strong efforts to improve living conditions in Pure Michigan, and reverse the trend of population decline.
I’m not reading or hearing about the MDOC staff crisis in Michigan prisons.
An item on the Detroit News editorial page more than intrigued me…it infuriated me. It was written by Timothy Fleury, a correctional officer at the Alger CF located in Munising. He obviously hoped to get someone’s attention. A huge employee shortage in our state prisons is at emergency level!
Fleury states that the staff vacancy rate at Alger is at 40% right now! The prison, which houses nearly 1,000, should have a staff of 166. But as of today, they are short by 66 workers! That leaves the job up to about 100 staff members, who must face excessive and unsustainable overtime hours. We’re talking about mandatory 16-hour shifts, and that’s just not fair. Not fair to staff. Not fair to incarcerated persons. Worse than that, it’s not acceptable.
Says Fleury about his drive to work: “I have to steel myself for the exhausting and frustrating shift ahead. Before my 16-hour overtime shift even starts, I mentally count down the hours until I can go home and see my family again.”
That sounds like torture to me, for workers and for prison occupants.
For the COs, it’s a challenge to be attentive and responsive when they’re not getting enough sleep, or enough time to recover and recharge.
For incarcerated persons, the predictable results are an inability to provide all of the programs the occupants need…it means longer waits for showers, food, medicine. And, surprise, surprise…shorter fuses. On both sides!
This is no insignificant matter.
It demands our immediate attention, as well as that of our state legislators. I’m
blaming the media here as well. Granted, topics like a huge auto strike, women’s
rights and gun laws make great headlines, and I’m not minimizing their importance.
But we have a crisis here, and I can’t see that our state is taking it
seriously. Nor are the media!
Michigan can do better. The occupants of our prisons deserve better.
“In our efforts to make societies more resilient to crime and to promote social cohesion…, we cannot disregard those in prison. We must remember that prisoners continue to be part of society, and must be treated with respect due to their inherent dignity as human beings.”
Yury Fedotov, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime