In 2010 Anno Domini, it was written into law: Senate Bill 1153 Department of Corrections Budget Sec. 219 states: Any contract for prisoner telephone services entered into after the effective date of this act shall include a condition that fee schedules for prisoner telephone calls, including rates and any surcharges other than those necessary to meet special equipment costs, be the same as fee schedules for calls placed from outside of correctional facilities.
Many weeks ago, the State of Michigan and the families of prisoners came to war over this law.
The prisoner's families were faithful and strong, but the State had a secret weapon--its name was Goliath. Goliath is the champion MDOC. Powerful is this Goliath, one enormous tree made up of several layers policies, rules, justifications, excuses.
The MDOC was on one side and the families were on another.
Clusters of large strong Government entities with many powerful branches, sat between them.
Because he is such a huge and fearsome entity, Goliath is very bold. He stood tall across from the prisoner's families and cried out saying, "Why are you out here ready to have a battle? How am I at fault and aren't you defending people who certainly are? Pick someone from your army and let him come down here to me. I'm ready to fight. If your man can overpower me, our entity will change our mission. But if we prevail, your prisoners will be our servants." Goliath was loud in its stance of who was in control.
At this time, there were a handful of individuals, Davids we will call them. The Davids heard the Goliath's voice and the choir of babble that joined him as the sounds rang through the powerful spaces in between.
In June of 2011, phone rates nearly double. According to research (CAPPS) this would mean depending on call volume, the proceeds from this increase are to be split between the MDOC and PCS. Approximately 70% would go into a “special equipment fund” controlled by the MDOC and approximately 30% would go to PCS. Despite the original bid PCS offered the MDOC, a flat 4 cent a minute rate and an additional 1 cent a minute, to include cell phone detection equipment, a revised contract allows PCS to profit by 4 to 5 ½ cents a minute.
“Understanding that budgets are shrinking for all State agencies, as part of our Best and Final Offer, PCS is also willing to work with the MDOC to create a Special Equipment Fund to help bridge any potential budget shortfalls. The amount of this fund can be set at the discretion of the MDOC.”
The prisoner's families were exhausted already, years of battling and no hope for a win, Goliath was huge and no one wanted to fight Goliath alone. The few left who had remaining strength, were also afraid and wondered, “What will we do?”
They Davids all stood up, each on resting firmly on their individual laurels and confronted the Goliath.
Goliath started shouting again and daring someone to fight with him. Many of the prisoner's families were in no position to fight, some were in distant lands, and some became fearful and fled in fear of retaliation. What chaos this had become.
The prisoners said to the Davids, "Did you see that man? His name is Goliath. He is denying our need to communicate. If any man can get through to Goliath, it will free the hearts of many people."
The Davids asked, "What will happen to those that stand up to this Goliath and bring forth hope to the families and prisoners? Who is this deceptive Goliath that he would deny the need of families to stay in contact and rob them of hope and money? What right does he have to interfere with the necessity to communicate?" “What right does he have to pilfer the poor?” “This is unacceptable!”
The Prisoners responded saying, "Many people talk about doing something, until it is time do something.” “Who will help us?”
And it was written and sent into the land: LANSING, MI—Families, friends, supporters of MDOC prisoners are planning a protest of MICHIGAN DEPT OF CORRECTIONS. Event aims to increase public awareness about the recent phone rate increase, the contract between the MDOC and PCS and its monetary exploitation of families and friends of incarcerated persons.
The protest, which is scheduled for Tuesday, July 12th, 2011 beginning at 10a AM, will take place in front of MDOC headquarters at 206 E Michigan Avenue Lansing, MI 48933.
The group hopes that the event will call attention to the burgeoning effort in Michigan to stop the unethical collection of revenue from struggling family and friends of prisoners incarcerated in Michigan prisons.
Errant individuals and the families and friends that support their rehabilitation, are not a source of income for the MDOC to pilfer from at their own discretion."
When some of the Davids heard other Davids talking about Goliath, they became prideful. "Why did you come here? You are wrong, and inexperienced at this type of battle! Your strong stance and verbal directness will ruin the battle!"
The Davids responded, "What have we done wrong in seeking the truth? Are we not justified in what we say? Are we not right?" The Davids turned and continued encouraging the people to stand strong against Goliath and they spread the word, “Don't be worried any longer, we will go and fight the Goliath."
Their words were again met with cynicism "You cannot fight Goliath, you are small and few and Goliath is an experienced warrior. Goliath has been building this battle for years."
The Davids replied, "We have fought many life long battles, battles that have left us weary, bruised, traumatized and defeated. Battles that could have very well ended our existence. In these battles we have persevered and overcome loss you yourselves may never survive, and we did it only through faith and the support of others. This Goliath is going to be just the same, nothing is so powerful that it cannot be weakened with search for truth.”
When the day had come, some of the David's met up, five or six of them like stones out of the brook and they stood near the turf of the Goliath.
A slingshot rung out a stone of truth.
But Goliath was unfazed, for the tall stately branches that stood between the People and Goliath, shielded him. Goliath peered through the shields and became annoyed when he realized the Davids were small and seemingly weak. He scoffed at them "Am I the poor dog that you come to beat with sticks?"
The Davids stood boldly and spoke loudly with their presence.
"You stand before us but hidden behind a shield of confusing discussions, spears of hate and a once mighty sword of truth and justice that is now rusted from years of flowing prejudices and greed. But we come in seeking truth and compromise. Not revenge. The armies of people who are alone are small, but together we find strength and solutions. In the days following this battle, you will prove to the people what your layers are really covering up. Your sword tainted with prejudice an injustice and spears of greed saveth not you or your brethren. Not Goliath or the entities that ride on your back."
Collectively, the Goliath and its brethren fight like that of fierce hunters; they stun and confuse the enemy and cause the confused victims to attack each other. This is what began to happen between the Davids in the days of the battle of Goliath. Then there were brought forth laws; rumors of laws, laws about laws, bills about laws, supplements and exceptions and policies and procedures and numbers and tallies of numbers of profit and accusations of who the real enemy is.
Rumors spread upon the land “we won something” and “apparently this bill is supposed to take effect for the new fiscal year, which begins October 1st. The "to take immediate effect" part of the bill, applies to the new fiscal year..." and "... the way the bill was written the intent was to repeal the SEF but the way it was passed and signed it didn't include it..." and "...the bill has been confusing to a lot of people, but the phone rates will not be lowered" and “Bill 138 does not legally reduce the phone rates, and the rates will remain at .20 cents per minute collect, and .18 cents per minute debit and "intent and hope was there to lower the rates, but the bill is not legally interpreted that way and the main purpose of Bill 138 was NOT to lower rates, but to introduce a Pilot Public Safety Program in Flint, MI..." "..and the Legislature's went about this all wrong, they can't enter item lines into an irrelevant bill."
And it was written and sent into all the land: FY 2010-11 SUPPLEMENTAL S.B. 138: This bill would increase Gross State appropriations by $325.8 million and State General Fund/ General Purpose (GF/GP) appropriations by $131.8 million.
Sec. 272. Any contract for prisoner telephone services shall impose fee schedules for prisoner telephone calls that are no greater than the fee schedules for standard calls placed by residential users in the area surrounding the correctional facility.
Amendment offered by Rep. Joseph Haveman (R) on June 29, 2011, to prohibit charging prisoners more than what nearby residents pay for phone calls. The amendment passed by voice vote in the House on June 29, 2011.
Amendments, repeals, boilerplates, 138, 272, passed, veto, project, special funds, profits...
The Davids cried out, “Stop!” “These words are weapons we cannot fight with. We've never used them before." “They are cumbersome to understand and to explain to others, they speak in riddles and languages that are alien and fail the purpose of man.” “They make no sense; they rattle our nerves and harden our hearts.”
And so it was carved in stone: SB 138 Sec. 272 requires contracts for prisoner telephone services impose a fee schedule no greater than residential user fee schedules in the area surrounding the corrections facility. The bill also, separately, repeals Sec. 219 of the current MDOC appropriations bill, which contains the language that allows for a special equipment fee.
And the stone was broken and scattered in pieces upon the land: "The conditions purportedly imposed by this section cannot be valid conditions on appropriations as they are outside the scope of the title and object of the bill and may violate Constitution 1963, Article IV, Section 24," the Governor wrote.
The boilerplate requiring that prisoner telephone fees be no greater than the fees for standard residential calls made in the communities surrounding a prison also have limited enforceability.
The supplemental only contains $1 million for Corrections for a Flint public safety project that would support the transfer of up to 200 inmates from the Genesee County Jail to surrounding county jail facilities. The telephone boilerplate can only be enforceable to the extent the $1 million would be used for any prisoner telephone service contract.”
A strange silence fell over the land. Nothing more was said.
No rumors, no laws, no changes.
All that is heard now blowing across the land and through The Stately trees are the echoes of the words of Goliath, “this will all die down and people will just get used it.”
And the prophet of greed, still profits but the prophecy of truth that the people seek, will one day prevail.