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  • Doug Tjapkes

Pardon my French, but Michigan voters, you should be pissed!

Leonard Pitts, Jr., fine columnist for the Miami Herald, wrote a great piece the other day about that high school principal in South Carolina who recently made national news. He took a night job at Walmart to help school kids living below the poverty line. Pitts took issue with those who claimed this was a “feel-good” story. Instead, he argued, it should make us feel rotten that teachers still have to use their own money for supplies, that the government keeps giving tax cuts for the rich while working class people must protest to get a working wage. You get the idea. I’ve been having similar feelings about the work of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS. We experienced an 88% increase in our work-load last year, providing personal assistance to persons incarcerated in the state prison system. Last month was the second-busiest month in history, as our staff and volunteers struggled to respond to nearly 2,000 calls. Meanwhile, board members are scrambling to meet the resulting increase in our budget. It all sounds exciting! Growing pains! Great work, HFP team! But that ain’t the way I see it. While we love to tout the assets of Pure Michigan, the fact of the matter is that the people we elected to public office in this state have let us down! -COVID may be one of the big reasons for the increase in our activity, but we should be pissed that the state did not give vaccine priority to our prisoners. -FOIA Requests take up an immense amount of time as we assist prisoners in obtaining legal documents, but we should be pissed that Michigan is one of only a few states that won’t allow prisoners to file their own requests under the Freedom of Information Act. -Medical care is another hot topic. 15 to 20% of our messages from prisoners deal with inadequate or insufficient medical care. But we should be pissed that the state not only does a shameful job with prisoner health-care, BUT ALSO demands a $5 co-pay from the inmates. -Commutation assistance is a big part of our work. But we should be pissed that our Governor ignores clemency as a means to effectively and safely reduce the prison population by releasing hundreds of deserving inmates. Do see what I’m getting at, here? There’s no question that the HFP team deserves accolades for its compassionate assistance to thousands of Michigan prisoners. But the bigger issue is that if the State of Michigan were doing its job, we would be sitting twiddling our thumbs! Now, voters, it’s your turn. “A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury.”― John Stuart Mill

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