Michigan has too many prisoners. I would know.

After nearly 30 years, I retired from work as a corrections officer with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC). When you sign up for a job like this, you know the work will involve challenges. But some of the challenges I faced are preventable.

For example, I was mandated to work hundreds of overtime hours over the last few years of my employment. This was a big blow to my family: I missed my son’s sporting events, birthdays, holidays, family outings, and suffered from lack of sleep. If my hours had been more reasonable, I would have worked longer with the MDOC. I retired for my family and myself. I just couldn’t do it anymore. In talking to several colleagues, I learned they were also affected in similar ways.

The current environment in MDOC creates security concerns, such as being understaffed and not feeling safe at work. Employees are scrutinized for our work ethic while only getting a few hours of sleep everyday. These issues affected officers and staff in prisons all over the State of Michigan, as well as the incarcerated people.

There is a way to remove some of those challenges, to release some of the pressures on my former co-workers, and make the system more secure. With nearly three decades of direct experience, I can tell you there are many folks incarcerated who don’t need to be there, who are ready to leave prison and never do anything that would put them back inside. Most of those folks have served 10 years or more and it would be a huge help to the system if there was a way for a judge to take a hard look at their cases and consider them for release.

The Second Look Sentencing Act would do just that: allow some incarcerated people to ask for a new sentence based on their rehabilitation while incarcerated. This legislation would help MDOC staff and prevent unnecessary safety concerns that are presented from working too many hours in a week. With fewer people in prison, less hours would have to be mandated onto MDOC staff.

During my long career with MDOC, I have personally witnessed the growth of many people who changed their lives and behavior, and who I believe would make great candidates for review under Second Look. They are people I would be OK with being my neighbor.

I support this legislation and would like to see it pass. My friends and former colleagues who still work for MDOC would like to be safe, as well as spend more quality time with their families. That is what safety and justice looks like to me.

The author has requested to remain anonymous due to fear of reprisal. Metro Times has verified the author’s identity and employment history.

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