Think twice before demanding Bernstein resignation

There’s no mistaking Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein’s Freudian Slip objection to newly appointed Justice Kyra Bolden’s hiring ex-felon Pete Martel as one of her law clerks as racism, bigotry, or discrimination. But calls for Bernstein’s resignation are unwarranted because his outburst isn’t reflective of the “blind justice” he has delivered in opinions he has written or concurred with regarding unemployment benefits, condemnation of property, judicial bias, juvenile lifers, and other cases too numerous to mention here.

Although the controversy prompted Mr. Martel to resign, being hired as a Michigan Supreme Court clerk, even for a day, tops an impressive resume that includes undergraduate and graduate degrees, a law degree, Ph.D., and working for the State Appellate Defender’s Office and the American Friend’s Service Committee. Mr. Martel is an exemplary role model for the incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, and society as a whole. Having rebuilt the life he nearly threw away as a teenager, and risen above Bernstein’s objection to his employment as a Michigan Supreme Court clerk, numerous doors of opportunity will open for Martel.

Granted, criticism of Bolden’s hiring an ex-felon is a legitimate grievance against Bernstein, but calling for his resignation isn’t the way to settle the grievance. Bernstein’s “blind justice” motto should not be easily dismissed.

Be careful what you wish for!!! You could wind up with a majority right-wing conservative Michigan Supreme Court.

~ Arthur Campbell
Muskegon Correctional Facility


Prison Programing

I have been trying to self-rehabilitate myself through correspondence courses. There have not been adequate classes available for rehabilitation provided by Michigan Department of Corrections in the past. I have requested to take classes from t􀂋e staff of MDOC and I was told it is not my R.G.C. requirement or my requirement has been waived. I have taken in a large number of correspondence courses independently that were designed for people who are incarcerated. I completed the courses and received certificates, however I have been getting a lot of hassle by staff members when I asked to have certificates placed into my file for MDOC and the parole board to review and consider. I have currently begun taking college courses with Mott Community College to obtain a degree in business thanks to the federal government. I was wondering if there any type of clear policies, or legislation that will help people like me within MDOC whom have been working on their rehabilitation and trying to have it recognized by the correctional and parole board systems.

~ Christopher Weaver
Thumb Correctional Facility

Education helps prepare for parole

I am a big proponent of education. Being lucky enough to have participated in two college programs; earning a bachelor’s (2001) and an associates (2022) during the long endurance of my sentence.

This sparked a growth in many interests in such things as learning, reading (voraciously), writing, organizing, critical thinking and much more. Come to find out, all these skills can be pressed and honed daily in an environment that is not only austere but loud and full of distractions. So, focus is a challenge at the best of times.

Now approaching the end of my “bit,” as we say, I have seen the board and mentioned all of the above with a sense of calm, confidence, gratitude and patience. I now await their decision. Knowing that I gave myself the best representation possible because of those educational opportunities — whether long ago or recent — is all good. As learning is truly a life sentence for those wanting better for themselves.

~Jack S. Copeman
Saginaw Regional Facility


Answers to Readers’ Questions

  1. What sort of programing from outside would you like brought in? We need programs to give us job skills. Volunteers who can provide knowledge that will give us skills to provide for ourselves is essential.
  2. Which legislative priorities would you like us to pursue in the coming legislative session? Caps on natural life. Most importantly for me personally, legislation that holds police and prosecutors accountable for misconduct. With no real conduct, why would they stop? Perjury, fabricating evidence, Brady violations are all common in Michigan. You also need a statewide Brady-Giglio list.
  3. What are your biggest concerns regarding reentry? My greatest concern upon re-entry is being able to provide financially for my family. It would also be finding ways to fight for other incarcerated, innocent and rehabilitated individuals.

~ Duane Williams
Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility


‘Good Time’ teaches nonviolent conflict resolution

Each person is held accountable for a crime. If a touch of humanity isn’t incorporated into punishment, the purposed is short-term for a system to function efficiently, it must possess key components to deliver. What is a democracy without checks and balances? What is a criminal justice system without prevention plans?

House Bill 6568 was introduced in the (Michigan) Senate in 2021, and again, in the house on Dec. 8, 2022. The bill will allow incarcerated citizens to earn 30 days off their sentence with each 30-day period of good behavior. It provides an important element of a criminal justice system, which is an incentive for virtuous conduct.

Whoever commits a crime falls short of their civic duty. Afterwards, the responsibility of the person is relinquished to the state. The question proposed is that if HB 6568 passes and becomes law, isn’t it about releasing criminals back on the street? Contrary, the ideal is to teach an individual who has no understanding how to apply conflict resolution in an extremely stressful environment for an opportunity for a sentence reduction only if the work is done. It has to be earned. If the goal of the justice system is to keep the public safe, why not invest wholeheartedly? Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable knowing the state not only punished for crimes, but also actually creates programs to reform people who are in desperate need? Even Viktor “Merchant of Death” Bout was only sentenced to 25 years.

In 1971, a philosopher, John Rawls, published the groundbreaking “A Theory of Justice.” We ask people who make decisions on economic and social policies to select behind a “veil of ignorance,” disregarding their own identity, hence, the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you if you were in their place.

~ Markcus McGill
Lakeland Correctional Facility


SORA requirements are destructive

Thirty years on Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry (SORA). Forced to submit even before the statute went into effect (1994). I can tell you without exception that there is nothing that the Michigan Department of Corrections can or will do to prepare sex offender(s) for what they will encounter upon release.

They aren’t even allowed to participate in many of the programs that are available now. Like the truck driving school, the POA or the dog program just to name a few. Wait until they get out and compete for employment or a place to live … better hope mom’s basement still has a vacancy. There is no reform for sex offenders. Society doesn’t want them. Our communities don’t want them. Employers and employees don’t want them. Just Google “sex offender advocates” and read the horror stories on “Once Fallen” or other site(s). When it comes to crimes of this nature, there are no “ex-offenders”! Personally, I was arrested, charged, convicted, sentenced and incarcerated three (3) separate times for violating the SORA requirement(s). Three times I lost my self-employment, place to live and all my belongings. Not to mention the time and money.

Since then, the state and federal court(s) have ruled that those early registration requirements were unconstitutional and violated not just my right(s), but many other(s) also. Unfortunately, we cannot sure for damage(s) as attorneys do not take on such case(s) because juries do not rule in favor of sex offenders.

Reform? … LOL. More like depression, hopelessness, drug & alcohol use, suicide! I could go on and on.

~ Anonymous