Let medically frail go home

Some years ago, I read (and saved) a newspaper article that stated a couple of interesting statistics. First, that “Michigan prisons hold about 9,000 prisoners who are at least 50.” Second, that roughly 120 prisoners die each year in the system — “a lot of them bed-ridden” and medically frail as the state’s elderly population climbed through the “tough on crime” legislation initiatives. And third, that a Republican representative named Al Pscholka once sponsored a bill to release 120 prisoners a year to live in nursing homes; the plan intending to save the prisons up to $5.4 million a year if “Medicaid could legally pick up the cost for these parolees.”

Apparently, the proposal never made it through the Senate, and so became just another empty death within corrections. Being over 50 myself, I’m not really concerned with dying in here, as I’m awaiting a parole decision now. So I’m close to an exit. What concerns me is witnessing the daily waste and apathy that is all things prison up close. Men confined to wheelchairs, mechanical walking devices, some unable to leave the housing unit and walk to the chow hall. And these aren’t the worst ones! Knowing there’s entire prison hospital wings and hospice “care” unites dedicated solely to those marking time until they die. That should be disturbing. My question then becomes: Is this what criminal justice means in American in general, and more specifically — in Michigan? If so, that’s pretty messed up.

~ Jack Copeman
Saginaw Correctional Facility


Increase prison pay

Michigan prisoners are subject to more punishments than just being locked up in prison. One of these over-and-above chastisements is the low prison pay. Prisoners need their jobs to purchase necessities not provided by the state. They also use this pay to communicate with loved ones. The prices for the goods prisoners can purchase has been ever-rising, while the job pay remains the same: unreasonably low.

Here are the key points of this issue:

  1. Prison wages are not reasonable and fair as they once were;
  2. Prices have steadily risen for goods allowed for purchase by prisoners;
  3. Prison wages have not risen in the last 40 years;
  4. Prisoners at the low end of the prison pay scale are the most negatively impacted.
  5. Most prisoners are paid at the lower end of the prison pay scale.
  6. Indigent loans and student prisoners are also negatively impacted by the low pay rates.
  7. Prisoners at these lower pay scales struggle just to purchase necessities and communicate with loved ones.
  8. Raising the wages could help a prisoner to maintain good health, proper hygiene, and communication with loved ones. (Communication with loved ones improves rehabilitation.)
  9. The unreasonable wages and rising prices have an additional punishing effect on prisoners.
  10. Prisoners as indentured servants, one given reason for the low pay, is an antiquated mindset and should be ended.
  11. At a minimal, a 30% increase is reasonable for the indigent loans, student, unskilled and semi-skilled prisoner pay scales at the low-end of the prison job compensation.
  12. Only a modest increase to the prison budget would be needed for the 30 percent increase. Prisoner’s disproportionate wage-to-costs are causing unneeded and avoidable tensions on prisoners which should be addressed by our Legislature. A solution is possible.

~Matthew Milbourn
Muskegon Correctional Facility