One Detroit program spreads the word to Michigan public health professionals
“I want to go to school but the school won’t let me,” Wayne State PhD candidate Charles Bell recounts what he hears from children after getting suspended from school, “I want to learn but you won’t let me.”
Bell, whose research looks at the effects of school suspensions, is featured in Detroit Public Television’s 60-minute special Pathways to Prison, spoke at the Michigan Public Health Institute’s Michigan Power to Thrive Summit.
Karika Parker of MPHI hosted the screening Pathways to Prisonand interviewed seven panelists including One Detroit producer Bill Kubota to talk about mass incarceration and its possible solutions.
Panelist Joe Haveman of the Grand Rapids based Hope Network served as a Republican state representative from 2009 to 2014 when he was term-limited out of office. Haveman went to Lansing when the state budget was in crisis, looking for ways to cut costs.
Turning to the Department of Corrections, he made parole reform part of his mission, looking for ways to release prisoners sooner while reducing the two-billion dollar Corrections budget.
“I never dreamt this would be something I would still be working on,” Haveman said, who is now running for state senate.
Parole reform has been seen as a bipartisan effort in Michigan with most Democrats supporting it, with some Republicans and the Governor joining them. Haveman said his message to fellow Republicans has been, “It’s okay to work on this.”
Some reform efforts were adopted by the state, but the major cost-cutting efforts, including what’s being called Safe and Smart Parole Reform remain in limbo.
Detroit author and community activist Yusef “Bunchy” Shakur believes even bigger changes are needed in the criminal justice system.
“Do you reform a house with mold in it?” Shakur asked, “No. You gut it out.”
Shakur pointed to the lack of economic opportunity as a root cause. “Poverty is violence,” he said.
Along with Nicholas Buckingham of Detroit and Michael Monroe of Kalamazoo, Shakur talked about their experiences as prisoners and their struggles to fit in and find work after getting out.
Mary King of the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency, who also appeared in Pathway to Prison, said Michigan needs to raise the age of the imprisoned from 17 to 18 years old.
King said in Michigan, young people who get caught drinking or doing drugs, “magically become an adult in the eyes of the law.
“It’s the right thing to do,” King said, citing statistics that incarcerated minors are far more likely to commit violent crimes after their prison stays. “We are only one of five states that put juveniles in jail,” she said.
MPHI is planning more showings of Pathways to Prison along with discussion sessions across the state.
See more about Pathways here: http://www.dptv.org/one-detroit/pathways-to-prison/