Inmates In Michigan Prison Organize Water And Fund Drive In Wake Of #FlintWaterCrisis

The Flint water crisis is so dire that even inmates at one of Michigan’s correctional facilities feel compelled to get involved and pitch in what little help they are able to give from behind bars.

Like people on the outside, prisoners at the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility, in Ionia, are collecting and donating water filters, cash and bottled water for the lead-poisoned city an hour and a half east—no easy feat for the incarcerated, many of whom grew up in Flint, themselves.

Former inmate Shaka Senghor visited the facility to talk to the prisoners regarding Black History Month and learned of their efforts, later posting on the beautiful prisoner drive on Facebook, as well as discussing the matter with Fusion.

Preceding Senghor’s Black History Month talk for the prisoners, one inmate stood up and addressed the crowd of roughly 250, stating, in Senghor’s words:

“What he said is that we all come from cities like Flint, if not from Flint. He said our responsibility is to do whatever we could on our end to ensure that the mothers and children and family members left behind would have adequate water.”

Senghor added:

“Literally everyone raised their hand to commit to give at least $3.”

Anyone who’s ever been remotely involved with the criminal justice system knows how expensive it can be to be in jail, both for the inmate and his or her family members, so that minimum $3 donation carries a lot more significance than it may sound. The goodness, kindheartedness and humanity behind it should give anyone pause who simple-mindedly assumes anyone behind bars is a degenerate criminal. Consider how long it may take an inmate to earn $3 at prison labor wages, where one is lucky to earn $10 a month, and amenities in prison are far from cheap. Take a look at the commissary for your local county jail online to get an idea and you’ll quickly see how generous that $3 donation truly is, and keep in mind that not everyone has family supporting them from the outside, either.

Being a 19-year veteran of Handlon and author of a new book titled, “Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison,” Senghor was truly uplifted by the inmates’ compulsion to get involved and help, even though society, to some degree, had labeled them as undesirables. Senghor stated:

“They’re willing to give more than most of us out here are willing to give. Ask someone to give a third of their income, and it’s going to be tough.”

Organizers within the prison plan to pass their donations off to both a church and a mosque in Detroit that are conducting their own drives on behalf of Flint; however, so far, as stated Department of Corrections spokesperson Holly Kramer, no donations have been collected at the prison thus far to her knowledge.

As Fusion aptly points out, the inmates pulling together donations for Flint not only helps the people of Vehicle City, but it helps the inmates, too, allowing them to feel good about themselves, as well as maintain a connection without the outside world. For some, it allows them to maintain a connection to home.

Senghor stated:

“It’s so important for them to be part of society in a meaningful way, to give back even though they’re on the other side of a fence.”

Right on.

Featured image by Shaka Senghor via Facebook.