The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Michigan Prisons:
The Struggle to Keep Connected

Feb 28, 2022

For many working class families who have family members in prison, it’s a struggle to keep connected. Often, they can be sent to a facility far away from their homes, making it difficult to physically visit. And now, as a result of COVID outbreaks in Michigan prisons, lockdowns are ongoing, so at present, you can no longer visit in person.

Prisoners in lockdown spend 22 hours in their cells, while educational programs and group therapy sessions have stopped. If inmates are lucky enough to have outside support, their family members have to set up a money account for them to buy cheap TVs or game pads from the prison-owned store. If they want books, the inmate again has to have an outside source who would buy the books which have to be new, paperbacks only, purchased from a third party that will issue a receipt inside a package. Again, money is needed.

Zoom visits and phone calls? You have to have a credit card on file so money for the visit or call can be charged to your card. And calls are routed from an out-of-state company and if you don’t know that, you might not even answer a call you don’t recognize.

In one unit of 50 inmates at the Thumb Correctional Facility, they have to share the 4 out of the 8 phones that actually work. For many inmates this is the only source of communication with the outside world. So, the 2 hours inmates are let out of their cells is a race to the phones for a 15-minute call. If you don’t happen to be lucky enough to get to one of them, your race to the phone returns the next day.

So, while it’s already hard for many families to have a loved one behind bars, keeping connected requires time and money. And lots of patience … lots!