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  • Doug Tjapkes

A year ago everything changed; nothing changed!

It was exactly one year ago. Up until that specific date, no one except medical practitioners in the operating room ever gave thought to wearing a mask. Now, all of us do it, all of the time. We don’t shake hands anymore. We don’t stand close to each other. That was the dramatic change. What didn’t change in the least is our attitude toward and our treatment of Michigan prisoners. Same old same old. One would think that, in the midst of an international pandemic, extraordinary measures would be taken to make sure staff didn’t bring in the disease. After all, restrictions were immediately enforced banning visitation by family, friends, and volunteers. The bug would have to come in somehow, right? Therefore, no outsiders allowed, period. But. the state's system was flawed. There’s no need to outline the train wreck that followed. I’m not convinced that many of us really care...we’ve got our own health and welfare to worry about. But, for the record... There are 35,000 people incarcerated in Michigan state prisons...more than 25,000 have had COVID. 3,600 cases among staff have been reported. Some fear there are more, but the state reports that at least 135 prisoners have died. More than 30 of them were friends/clients of HFP. Sad story after sad story filtered in to our office. Helpless, we could only pray. Deaths occurred among prison staff as well. So far, at least 4. Then came the vaccine. A God-send! Were prisoners among those granted priority status for the shots? YES, in some states. NO, in Michigan! Having grown accustomed to low interest in prisoners under the past regime, we falsely hoped that a new Governor from the other side of the aisle would make a difference. Nada. While we appreciate many of the stands this Governor has taken, her attitude toward prisoners is disappointing. Based on her interest to date in clemency for deserving inmates, I guess this should come as no surprise. So, while all of us face world much differently these days---wearing masks and such, some things never change. Not when it comes to our prisoners. May that day still come. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. II Corinthians 4:18

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