I long for a kinder, gentler nation and world.

I want to see HUMANITY shown toward man.

I long to see open recognition of good works done, even small works.

MSNBC Nightly News often devotes its last few minutes to a report on something uplifting. When I hear those reports, I feel good…and I want to hear more.  

That leads my thoughts to prisoners.

Is credit ever given to prisoners who turn their lives around while they are serving their sentences? One would think that the MDOC would jump at the chance to claim results from their efforts as evidence of solid programming. Positive reinforcement – that is, praise – for a job well done is highly effective in improving behavior. But positive reinforcement seems to be in short supply. Prisoners have to wait…for meals, for medical care, for everything, it seems, except praise. From stories I have been told, it is often through an individual’s determined effort to bring about change in his or her life that transformations often occur. Since 95% of those currently serving time in prison will at some point be released from prison, it would simply make sense to make use of positive reinforcement in prisons.

“Good time” is a term used to describe exactly that – a reward to prisoners for good behavior. Michigan does not do that any longer. There seems to be, in fact, little recognition behind those bars of anything done well.

I long for a kinder, gentler state. I long for a kinder, gentler MDOC. In my world, prisoners would serve their time receiving instruction from Day 1. At first, they might be required to work through anger issues, or to break an addiction. Positive reinforcement would be very effective here. Once they began to have respect for themselves and for those around them, there could be a focus on the future. How wonderful if fresh starts could begin with new careers! Vocational training would provide a “leg up.” In fairness, Michigan’s Vocational Villages are a start to this…but they are not available to everyone. A skill would give so many a fighting chance to succeed in very competitive and prejudicial environments. Given a viable chance to succeed, I believe there would be more enthusiasm and drive, and there would likely be less recidivism. 

Everyone needs to feel valued! Sadly, prisoners wait, often feeling ignored or overlooked while they serve their time, while they wait to hear from the Parole Board, or while they hope for the recognition of a commutation.

Sadly, too, what about those who are ill, or aging within prisons? Couldn’t there be a more compassionate plan for such folks?

And finally, how terrible to die alone in prison, without anyone to care?    

I don’t have the bully pulpit that my friend, Doug, has at Humanity for Prisoners, but recently I voiced my thoughts to him, wishing that we could somehow institute a statewide memorial service for prisoners who died in the previous year. I would like to see this recur annually. Not only would it give value to lives that have been forgotten, but it might just provide some healing for those left behind, who couldn’t say goodbye. Today’s technology could allow such a service to be viewed in all Michigan prisons by all prisoners.

Each of us is unique. Each of us has value. I strongly believe that no matter how off track our behavior has been at one time or another, there is something good in each of us. Think about it:  what if each of us reading this valued, complimented, or affirmed someone today? What a nicer place this world would be! If we did this daily…we could absolutely turn this world – and maybe even MDOC upside down!


I’d wanted to write something profound to begin the new year…but profundity seems beyond me.

Hope is uppermost in my mind. Hope for the future. As I read posts on Facebook and elsewhere, I am hopeful and encouraged by the number of words of encouragement. Indeed, everyone is tired – of the pandemic and the impositions it has posed, of politics, of every kind of evidence of greed and exploitation, and of the problems within our country becoming worse because no one can agree, on anything it seems.

Today as I scrolled through entries on Facebook, I was encouraged by many wonderful tributes to Betty White. I saw a post that mocked an uneducated person’s spelling, and I was proud of those who commented, speaking up to say that, basically, the person was doing the best he or she could.

Isn’t that the sometimes-elusive goal for which we all strive?

I marvel at the diversity that surrounds us all – from physical characteristics, to cognitive abilities, to the ways in which people choose to live and interact with one another. Just as when one studies nature, or the workings of the human body, I find it overwhelming to recognize the intricacies of nature and how very perfectly one aspect interacts with and, indeed, complements the other.

No, everyone is not born highly intelligent. Nor do we all have smoking hot bodies. Some are cranky, some are kind no matter what crosses their path. And yet, we all get the privilege of living here, to commune with a Higher Power, and to experience nature and life – as best as we each are able.

Thus, I return to hope. Over the last few years, I think we have come very close to seeing the worst we can imagine. We have floundered. We have lost faith in one another. We have come close to giving up. Yes, we are tired. But, friends, we are all better than this! In fact, there are many out there who do, and will continue to, stand up against adversity. We have not lost the goodness in our natures. We have not lost hope. We have only turned down a rocky path.

My hope for 2022 is that there will be many who recognize the goodness around us. My hope is that they have the courage to speak up and to act as they truly believe. I look forward to new leaders to help us find our way. I look forward to experiencing new solutions to old problems, and to those who have the ability to use those solutions to further better our country. Heaven knows there is much waiting to be done! May we look upon one another as treasures who, no matter our abilities, have something to offer, and may we always strive to make those offerings our very best.