March 29, 2020, 11:22 pm
As a prisoner, I am often critical of the justice and prison systems. Because I am stuck in the middle of these systems, I see the flaws, the injustices that happen daily, the unfairness in how the courts work, and the brokenness in how prisons are run. You might say that I have a front row seat to the injustices. Others might say that I am biased because I am a prisoner. That’s a fair point, but I do consider myself a pretty objective person. I could highlight a few points to make my case, but that’s for another time. As an objective person, though, I simply want to acknowledge when people get it right.
Michigan Department of Corrections Director, Heidi Washington, and her staff are, like other national and state leaders, dealing with something unprecedented in our lifetime. The coronavirus poses a threat to the prison system unlike any other threat. Prisoners are unable to isolate themselves at home, unable to stay away from others, and unable to get away when someone else nearby is infected with the virus. Very early on, medical experts named prisons as one of the most vulnerable populations for this virus.
As I said before, I’m often critical of the way prisons are run. They are inefficient, full of bureaucratic garbage, and unjust in how they treat many prisoners. But under Director Washington, things have improved a little. During this crisis, she and those who work for her are trying very hard to respond to this virus in a balanced and safe way. We could be on 24/7 lockdown (which still might be coming), but we’re not right now. At least not at MTU where I am housed. We are on restricted movement, and policies are in place to limit our exposure to others. But we can still go to rec yard. We can still use the microwaves, phones, and email kiosks when we want to. We can still use the bathroom at will. It could be much worse.
When this virus first started making the news, the MDOC switched to a bleach cleaner to cut down on the risk of spreading anything that might be introduced into the prisons. The director’s office also began sending prisoners update emails via JPay on almost a daily basis, helping to quell the often false rumors that spread fear like wildfire in prison. The director’s office also worked with JPay, our email provider, and Global TelLink, our phone provider, to ensure that prisoners were given two free emails and two free five-minute phone calls each week. Since in-person visits are not possible during this time, the director has worked to ensure we can stay in touch with those we love.
Being away from those we love is bad enough in times when there isn’t a crisis, but in times of great fear, it is especially difficult. It means a lot that Director Washington has made it a priority to ensure we can stay in touch with our families. She continues to demonstrate compassion and concern for those she is tasked to oversee. As a prison reform advocate, I will continue to write about injustices and other concerns I have with the prison system, but sometimes it’s appropriate to step back and say “Thank You!” for when things go well.
I expect things will get tougher in prison in the days ahead. As of Friday, Michigan’s prisons had 14 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and it is bound to spread even more. As I can, I will continue to write. In the meantime, know for those of you who have loved ones in prison, many of us are praying for you and your safety, and we thank you, too, for your prayers for us.
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The opinions expressed within posts and comments are solely those of each author, and are not necessarily those of Women Against Registry. Women Against Registry reserves the right to edit or delete any content submitted.