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  • Doug Tjapkes

Resolved: That 2021 will be The Year of the Prisoner!

“New Year's Day ... now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” Mark Twain OK, this time, a resolution you can keep. I promise. First let me say that we let our prisoners down in 2020, and we can’t allow that to happen again. Granted, we were obsessed by more than a handful of other issues: political division, Black Lives Matter, a pandemic with all of its spinoffs and problems, etc. But while we were fretting and whining about our own situations, Michigan prisoners sank into the depths of hell. Due, in part, to poor planning and bungling, more and more prisoners caught the virus. More and more prisoners died. And the hundreds of prisoners who could have been safely released never got to see daylight. We’re now approaching 120 prisoner COVID deaths. Positive tests are way past the 60% mark among our 35,000 inmates. People often ask, “What can I do?” Or, “Is there anything I can do?” The answer is a resounding “YES!” It’s resolution time. One of the problems with New Year’s resolutions is that we set unrealistic goals. This year, our proposal is a simple one: Make 2021 the Year of the Prisoner. It can be done with simple, easy steps. Here are some suggestions. Write to a prisoner. We can put you in touch with an agency that specializes in connecting you with an inmate. All experiences aren’t positive, but it’s worth the gamble. This can be a life-changing experience. Pray. If you are a person of faith, here are three prayer suggestions: 1, pray for prisoners and their plights; 2, pray for those who care for prisoners, such as guards and medical personnel; and 3, pray for those agencies that serve or advocate for prisoners. Support. There are wonderful tax-exempt organizations doing their best to help prisoners. Go on line, review their credentials and mission statements. Some are very religious, handling things like Bible study and in-prison services. Some work on legislation to improve our system. Some help prisoners as they re-enter society. Only one works to provide one-on-one assistance on a full-time basis to assist prisoners with their daily, every-day issues, needs and problems. Carefully review. Then pledge your regular financial support. It takes dollars to do this work. These are not difficult commitments. BUT, they are important ones! 2021 is approaching. As you reach your conclusion and form your decision, consider these words from American novelist Herman Melville, penned already in the 1800s: How feeble is all language to describe the horrors we inflict upon these wretches, whom we mason up in the cells of our prisons, and condemn to perpetual solitude in the very heart of our population. Let’s touch those lives! As you consider New Year’s resolutions, please consider making 2021 THE YEAR OF THE PRISONER. May God bless your decision.

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