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  • Doug Tjapkes

Open the door, MI!

No question about it: Isolation due to COVID nearly drove many of us crazy! From our friends, from our neighbors, in the news, we heard reports of such psychological disorders as anxiety and panic, insomnia, digestive problems, depression, loneliness, and irritability. Sadly, the suicide rate was up. Psychology experts point out that human beings are not “designed” to manage segregation, even for 10 days, let alone for a long period of time. Duh! As the Greek philosopher Aristotle reminds us, man is a “social animal.” I’ve got news for you. After hearing our complaints, more than 3,000 Michigan prisoners have little sympathy. These prisoners are caged in a 7x9 foot cell for more than 20 hours a day! They’re in solitary confinement. They were there before COVID. They’ll be there after COVID unless we do something about it. The HFP team is especially aware of this, not only because some of our clients are in seg, but also because our office is supporting Citizens for Prison Reform’s Open MI Door Campaign, an effort to end or at least limit solitary confinement in Michigan. My friend Lois DeMott Pullano, Executive Director of CPR, is spearheading this campaign, and it’s turning out to be an uphill battle. You see, we don’t like it when we’re stuck in the house all day, even though we have the opportunity to mask up, take a walk around the neighborhood, and chat with family members on zoom. Yet, we show little concern re solitary confinement in our prisons, where prisoners can experience -Confinement behind a solid steel door for 20 to 24 hours a day -Water shut-offs and restrictions on food -Inadequate medical and mental health treatment -Physical torture such as top of bed restraints, hog-tying and restraint chairs -“No-touch torture,” such as sensory deprivation, permanent bright lighting, extreme temperatures, extreme noise and forced insomnia -Chemical torture, pepper spray, tasers and forced cell extraction -Sexual intimidation and other forms of brutality and humiliation -Infrequent phone calls and non-contact family visits -Extremely limited access to rehabilitative or educational programming -Restrictions on reading material, paper and mail. It’s no wonder that we get reports of severe anxiety, fear, rage, depression, even hallucinations, confusion and memory loss. It’s time to end the double standard. Isolation wasn’t a picnic for us. It’s hell for prisoners. We encourage your support of this CPR effort by signing a petition. Do it now!

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