Give people mental health help
More than 50 percent of all people will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime, statistics say. That is a staggering statistic just in general, exacerbated when we consider “diagnosed” because many won’t be diagnosed. And without proper diagnosis, we begin to normalize behaviors derived from our illnesses. Mental fortitude is a necessity for surviving physical confinement, a necessity rarely, if ever, discussed. Not surprising considering that mental health and incarceration are not mentioned together, although one is oftentimes used for the other. In possessing mental fortitude, our mental health must be in good condition, requiring regular check-ins with self, or simply creating space to release daily stressors. For those of us who are incarcerated it is work, work that doesn’t need to be done alone. Family, friends and other women and men in our carceral space can provide assistance, checking on one another regularly. Initiating conversations that diminishes the stigma surrounding mental health, especially with men. The conditions that we are exposed to are not conducive to a healthy mental self. We must be more conscious of the complete self. As we prepare to return to society, to our communities, our families, we must be whole or at least working on it. Statistics say 1 in 5 Americans will experience mental illness in a given year. With impoverished, homeless, incarcerated and people with substance abuse problems being at higher risk for poor mental health. Incarceration has its own category. However, incarcerated individuals could possibly check additional boxes as well. We are being warehoused and released, some of us after decades. We need to be more responsible for our mental well-being, while ensuring that upon release, all of us are capable of contributing not only to society but advocating for those of us still incarcerated.
~ Gregory Tyrone Alexander
Brooks Correctional Facility
We need a Second Look
A quote from U.S. Supreme Courte Justice Kennedy: “One day in prison is longer than almost any day I have had to endure.” Judge Kennedy told the nation’s lawyers, “When the door is locked against the prisoner, we do not think about what is behind it. To be sure, the prisoner must be punished to vindicate the law, to acknowledge the suffering of the victim, and to deter from future crime. Still the prisoner is part of the family of humankind.”
To me, this quote speaks to exactly why we need the Second Look bill. It would allow for older prisoners who are no longer a threat to anyone to re-enter society.
In my case, I shot and killed my wife while in a drunken rage while she was with her lover. I have not touched a drop of alcohol since that awful night. I was offered a generous plea bargain, but my state of mind would not allow me to accept my guilt and face the truth. I have taken all the classes the Michigan Department of Corrections offers on violence prevention — Cage Your Rage, restorative justice and many faith-based classes — to understand why my crime happened, how it affected my victims and the community. I have been in prison 44 years. I was 29 when I came to prison. I am 74 years old with no end in sight. I have recently survived treatment for prostate cancer. I am an old man with health issues.
This bill would allow a judge from my county who knows about my crime to make a learned decision to allow me a second chance or not. This bill will not flood the state with dangerous criminals. It will just allow the state an option to release older prisoners who are no longer a threat to society.
~ Richard Dykhouse
Ionia Correctional Facility