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Old 12-09-2002, 11:12 PM
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danielle danielle is offline
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Default Michigan's prison visit rules face Supreme test

Michigan's prison visit rules face Supreme test
Associated Press Writers

States' rules for visiting prison inmates will be affected when the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether Michigan's restrictive policy is constitutional, officials said Monday.

At least 11 states -- including Indiana -- are supporting Michigan's appeal of a lower federal court's decision against the state's visitation policy for prison inmates, said Greg Bird, spokesman for Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm.

The nation's highest court announced Monday it would decide if it's a privilege or a constitutional right for inmates to have visits from young relatives and others.

Since 1995, Michigan has banned visits by some children, taken away visitation privileges from inmates caught twice with a banned substance and prohibited visits from former inmates who aren't immediate family.

The rules also limit the number of visitors prisoners could have to an approved list of 10, limit weekend visits and ended visits that were held outside on prison grounds.

"We set out to create a system that protected children from dangerous predators and maintained security for inmates in and visitors to our prisons," Gov. John Engler said in a Michigan statement. "I am both happy and reassured to know the nation's top court will give Michigan's case a fair hearing."

Indiana, Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas are supporting Michigan. Monday's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court may encourage others to offer their support, Bird said.

Opponents say Michigan's policy increases prisoners' isolation from families and society and makes them more likely to commit new crimes when they are released.

Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds sided with inmates, ruling that imprisonment doesn't erase a person's First Amendment right to associate with others.

Donna Leone Hamm, director of the Tempe, Ariz.-based prisoner advocacy group Middle Ground, said visitation is too important to inmates' success to be based on a punishment and reward system.

"Visitation makes an extraordinary difference in an inmate's success," she said.

The number of visitors dropped from 800,000 in 1995 to 486,000 in 2000, said Russ Marlan, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections. Between May 2001 and December 2001, 292,760 people visited inmates in Michigan prisons and camps, Marlan said.

The number of visitors during the same period in 2002 increased to 330,398 when the department stopped enforcing its visitation policy after Edmunds overturned it, he said.

Between 1995 and this year, the prison population has jumped from 39,000 to 49,700, he said.

Meanwhile, the percentage of prisoners found to be using drugs in random tests fell from 3.8 percent in 1995 to 0.7 percent this year, Marlan said. Those statistics show the strict visitation policy is helping reduce drug abuse in prisons, he said.

The high court over the years has upheld restrictions on books, packages and visitors at prisons.

The inmates' lawyer argued Michigan had the harshest visitation rules in the country, allowing someone to permanently lose the right to see family members or friends after two drug or alcohol infractions.

"This unique and extraordinarily harsh punishment had a devastating effect on prisoners and their families," attorney Deborah LaBelle said in a filing.

Justices must weigh Michigan authorities' ability to control their prisons against the rights of inmates. States usually win in such cases.

Michigan's rules ban visits from prisoners' minor relatives, like brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews. Children and grandchildren are allowed to come to the prison, unless the parental rights have been terminated.

Granholm said that the rules were changed because of many visitation problems, including the molestation of a child during a visit.

Michigan's rules were imposed in 1995 and challenged by a group of inmates, including Michelle Bazzetta, who was convicted in the death of her then-husband's stepmother nearly 20 years ago.

The appeals court said the ban on visitors is cruel and unusual punishment.
Here are some of the restrictions on Michigan inmates' rights to have visitors:

Inmates must have an approved list of 10 people, not including immediate family.

No outdoor visits.

No visits by minors, including siblings and cousins of prisoners.

Children may only visit parents in prison if they are with a legal guardian.

Prisoners who have had parental rights terminated are not allowed to see their minor children.

Ex-inmates are prohibited from visiting.

There is a permanent ban on visitors -- except for attorneys and clergy -- for prisoners with two or more substance abuse violations or other serious violations.

Source: Michigan Dept. of Corrections
Monica Danielle
On September 22, 2003, my better half came home after 657 days in an Alabama prison!!!

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Old 12-10-2002, 11:01 AM
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Thanks for the information
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Old 12-13-2002, 12:27 PM
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This was very interesting.... thanks for posting it.

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Old 12-20-2002, 08:08 AM
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Default There is also a limit

to the visiting. There is a limit of four visits per month. At Baraga Max there is visiting every single day, but they are only allowed four visits per month, which is difficult right now because we have so many family members that want to visit Justin for Christmas. I have to say though, I have been visiting my son every single week now since he has been there and I resent that I have to give up my weekly visits to someone who wants to see him once a year but I guess it is good for him to see someone else's face for a change...

Anyways, just wanted to add that....


The state of Michigan has 17,000 inmates incarcerated beyond their release date. Costing taxpayers 497 MILLION dollars a year. That would fund alot of education! Outraged? Contact your Senators, Representatives and Governor!
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