JAIL CENTRAL: BERRIEN COUNTY, MICHIGAN
Interview with Dorothy Pinkney By Joseph Peery
Joseph Peery: Dorothy, what happens when young people are arrested in Benton Harbor?:
Dorothy Pinkney: They tell them to plead guilty and you’ll just be fined. By hearing this they get excited and think “I can do this, I can say I’m guilty and I’ll go home.” But it doesn’t happen like that. It’s not set up that way. The powers that be know that the poverty level in the city is so high and there are not many jobs. So when they give these young African American guys their jail sentences, they know they cannot afford to pay their sentence. So what do they do? Go to jail. Then the jail becomes overcrowded. I’ve seen so many mothers, wives, girlfriends, packed into the Berrien County Jail just to visit their boyfriends, their husbands, their fathers. It was too much to handle. I didn’t know it was this extreme.
JP: Many families don’t have a bread winner at home. And during winter, there’s a lot of homes that don’t have water or gas. Can you speak to this.
Dorothy: You’re just adding misery to people’s lives. It’s like you take a nail and hammer and you hit that nail. It’s going to pierce the wood, but you keep nailing and hitting and it goes deeper and deeper. There’s so much poverty. The city is being drained.The government doesn’t care. Why do you keep beating someone down when people are saying “we can’t take any more.” Instead of helping, you’re steady nailing deeper and deeper.
JP: What do you feel people in other cities need to do?
Dorothy: I think we can all come together and unite as one, fight for one particular thing, get that accomplished, and then go to the next thing. It’s a slow process but we can do it. It’s never too late.