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  • Doug Tjapkes

If happiness is a good night's sleep, some women aren't happy!


Deliberate sleep deprivation has been used for centuries as a form of torture. Optalert Hundreds of women serving time with the Michigan Department of Corrections are complaining about sleep deprivation. Here’s the deal. Women’s Huron Valley is the only prison in Michigan that houses women. Some 2,000 convicts are incarcerated at this facility in Ypsilanti. There are actually two prison sections on the campus, East Side and West Side. At one time, the West Side was used for housing mentally ill male prisoners, and so large, strong fluorescent lights were installed in the ceiling. They were called “observation lights,” and their glow could light up the whole room. The lights were important and necessary for caring for these special needs people. Well, women occupy all of the housing units now, and they’re not mental cases. But, the “observation lights” on the west side remain, and said lights are keeping prisoners awake. The inmates don't like it, they've been complaining, but not much is happening. Our sources tell us that putting all the ladies in one prison meant that these cells on the west side had to be double-bunked. And that left inmates on the top bed just one yard away from these four-foot-long light fixtures. The light shines right in their eyes, and there’s no escaping it. How often do these lights get turned on, you ask? Not just once or twice: 9 PM, 10 PM, midnight, 2 AM, 5 AM and 6 AM. Residents of these housing units on the West Side no sooner get back to sleep when the lights come on again. We have friends in these units who swear that the sleep deprivation is having a detrimental effect on the physical, emotional and mental condition of prisoners. One inmate claimed the on-again/off-again light situation is triggering migraine headaches. It doesn’t bother the staff...they’re in the building to work, whether lights are on or off. It doesn’t bother the warden. It’s nice and dark in his bedroom at home. It doesn’t bother the MDOC people in Lansing. They get to go home at night. But it does bother hundreds of women on the West Side at WHV! It’s not fair, and something should be done about it! The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep. E. Joseph Cossman

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