This week, a new policy went into effect that now allows individuals incarcerated in Michigan to apply to watch the funerals of nearly immediate family members regardless of their security risk rating.
“Any tragic death and cause of great grief is exacerbated only when you are unable to pay your final respects to your family,” Heidi Washington, director of the Michigan Department of Corrections, said in a press release. “While these individuals have broken the law, they are still human beings and helping them maintain the bonds with the family and community to which most will one day return are important steps for long-term public safety.”
Prior to the policy directive, only prisoners with a low security rating were allowed to request to attend in-person visits, and even if they were approved, which is considered rare, restrictions were attached. Not only will the corrections worker volunteer to accompany the imprisoned person to the memorial service, the prisoner and/or family will be responsible for paying that worker’s wages, plus benefits, housing, and transportation. This can sometimes add up to $1,000 a day or more, Radio Michigan reports.
There are no costs associated with virtual services, unless the funeral fee for equipment and supplies is on their end, at which point the guest or their family are responsible for covering these costs. While the new policy Do Make it easier and more accessible for guests of all security levels to show their respect, they still have to request video service attendance and this request must be approved by the correction facility staff. It is not clear what are the reasons for rejecting the request for a virtual memorial.
Once approved, the prisoner will be able to “attend” the viewing in an area away from other prisoners so that they have some semblance of privacy, although there is a facility employee to monitor the viewing.
Podcast host honor nation Josh Hu said he was previously imprisoned Radio Michigan Dealing with the death of a close friend or family member while behind bars is “one of the hardest things to do”.
“I think most people probably don’t fully understand how separated you are,” Hu said of being imprisoned. “Most of the ways people can stay in touch with you require that they spend money to keep in touch with you, so that becomes an additional drain on people’s resources.”
Currently, there are an estimated 33,000 people behind bars in Michigan.