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  • Doug Tjapkes

Whistleblowers - Genuine Heroes!

It takes a lot of courage to be a whistleblower. Just ask those women who dared to speak up about New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s outrageous behavior. In one of the New York Times pieces that I read, the writer reported a “campaign of retaliation” against any person who dared challenge the Governor’s suggestive words and actions. In fact, the story said, options were so bleak for those hoping to expose this toxicity that many just chose to tough it out. They needed the job. They needed the paycheck. The story reminds me of some amazing whistleblowers who helped us expose problems in the Michigan prison system over the years. -There was a plumber who risked his contract with the MDOC just to tell us about a rotten situation at Women’s Huron Valley. -Speaking of WHV, there was a list of gutsy women who risked their valuable prison jobs by smuggling affidavits to us accusing officers of abusing mental patients, resulting in interference by the ACLU and investigation by the US Department of Justice! -Then there was the Corrections Officer in the U.P. who risked losing his job by blowing the whistle on his warden, who had been encouraging staff to harass ethnic minority prisoners! -Prisoners regularly agree to give their names, if necessary, to expose shoddy prison medical care. Political commentator Fuad Alakbarov says whistleblowers are “crucial to a healthy society. The employee who, in the public interest, has the independence of judgment and the personal courage to challenge malpractice or illegality is a kind of public hero.” Said the New York Times Editorial Board, in calling for the Governor’s resignation: “...the women who came forward to share them (the stories), even in the face of threats of retaliation, as detailed in the report, should be commended for their bravery.” We, too, encounter this kind of bravery on a state level, time and again. The threat of retaliation is rife in the prison system, but courage often rises to the top. An HFP salute to those who, despite the very real threat of retaliation, dare to speak up! “To see a wrong and not to expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance.” -Dr. John Raymond Baker, Whistleblowers International.

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