DETROIT (CBS DETROIT) – The day a prisoner is released is often seen as an opportunity to start with a clean slate, but release doesn’t necessarily come with the tools or support to succeed in society. On the inside or once released, there is no counseling and often no drug treatment for people.
Francine Giordano’s son spent six and a half years in prison for having sex with a minor who happened to be his 14-year-old high school girlfriend.
Giordano says her son Kenny has struggled and the lack of support has been difficult.
“When he first got out – he was excited to finally be out – have some freedom but also very overwhelming because when you get out – there are many responsibilities you have to take care of with parole — registering and all that stuff – so totally overwhelmed – clueless in what to do because he went in at 18 – he never really learned anything,” said Giordano. “He had mixed emotions.”
Wayne State University psychiatrist Dr. Gerald Shiener says it’s an endless cycle. “You’ve taken people off the street and put them in prisons but you haven’t done anything to help them or to figure out why they are there in the first place.
“When you are done punishing them, you put them back on the street and they are either back where they started from or sometimes they are behind from where they started from because the experience of prison can be traumatic – mentally ill inmates get victimized , they don’t get treatment in prisons, so it’s a losing battle, unless we allocate the resources and allocate them sensibly.”
One bright spot, says Shiener, is that Oakland County had a drug court where they divert people who have addiction problems, and they’ve agreed to spend extra money on medication because they think it’s cost-effective to spend that money to keep people out of jail.
Prescription coverage is very limited, he says, and the public programs are very stingy, they don’t have much help available, appointments with a doctor are on a monthly basis, appointments with a therapist are … maybe a little more frequent but not as readily avail and people can’t get the treatment they need, they can’t get the medications.
“There are precious few psychiatric services in the community to help people make the adjustment to living the real world and to overcome the effects of psychiatric illness, whether it’s schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder or addiction – which are the three big concerns within the prison population.
“In the ’90s, Governor (John) Engler closed 18 psychiatric hospitals and built prisons — as a result — the prison population – over 50 percent are either drug addicted or chronically mentally ill — they get very limited treatment in prison,” says Shiener.
“What we are seeing with the food service and the publicity they’ve gotten with the prisoners being served spoiled food that’s infected with maggots – it’s similar in that the prison system has to bid with care organizations that say they can provide care with limited resources – they don’t have enough doctors, they don’t have enough personnel – there are administrative procedures that make it harder to do anything, and the care often falls short.”
Bonnie Hilberer, founder and director Hope 4 Healing Hearts, seeks to make the transition from prison to home life less stressful and more hopeful.
She wanted to create a place that was safe; a place where everyone could talk and no one looked down upon them, she says in her mission statement for the organization. A place where everyone could learn to hold their head high; know that they carried no guilt and eventually were able to find inner peace.
For Hilberer the situation is personal. She’s experienced the grief and sense of helplessness when a family member becomes part of the prison system.
“In January, 2008, my son-in-law’s father went to prison. I watched as he and my daughter struggled with the emotions that this brought to their family. Everyday something new occurred to upset their household. Their tears were endless,” she says.
Hope 4 Healing Hearts meets the second and fourth Monday every month from 6:30 p.m.- 8:30 p.m. at the Kirk of Our Savior in Westland.
This week WWJ Newsradio 950 reporter Brooke Allen takes a look at juvenile offenders placed into the adult prison system.