Sunday, July 03, 2016

Misappropriation of Prisoners’ Benefit Fund at Marquette – We demand an audit!

There is suspicion, and it’s not unfounded, that the Marquette prison officials have been caught with their “hands in the cookie jar!” Marquette prisoners have evidence that funds from the Prisoners’ Benefit Fund (PBF) have been funneled not to make requested purchases to improve living conditions for the prisoners, but into the pockets of prison officials. This year alone about $1,700 has disappeared from the PBF. 
The PBF is supposed to work like this. Prisoners buy food from a company other than Trinity Services Group because the food served by Trinity in the chow hall is unclean, infested with rodent feces, bugs, and maggots. Inmates shell out more than normal retail for such items as a one ounce bag of chips ($1.29) or a measly 5-6 oz. chicken breast ($3.06). Even a 14-minute phone call costs a minimum of $4.00. For many inmates, the phone calls are the only way to make contact with loved ones, friends, even legal counsel because visits are few and far between for most prisoners housed at Marquette Branch Prison, located in the Upper Peninsula near the Canadian border. 
As these purchases are made, a tiny percentage of these costs (e.g., two cents per phone call) is funneled to the Prisoners’ Benefit Fund. Prisoners can make requests for purchases and, once approval is received from the State of Michigan, the purchases are made using the PBF monies. Sounds like a fair deal, right? Wrong! 
Recently, the Marquette prisoners requested that funds from the PBF be used to buy a microwave, and the State approved the purchase. However, to date, no microwave has been purchased. 
Earlier this year, Marquette prisoners submitted a request for a simple exercise machine, which was approved. The exercise machine normally retails at about $400-500, but the PBF was drained of $6,000 for the machine! 
The purpose of the PBF is to provide some decent conditions and comforts to prisoners. Instead, we have evidence that the PBF has become a means of distorting and mishandling monies and padding the pockets of prison officials.
This solidifies what we already know: the prison system does not care about the welfare of the inmates, the Michigan Department of Corrections and the State of Michigan are not concerned about the ultimate cost to taxpayers, and the PBF is just one more scam engineered to pad the pockets of prison officials rather than provide human rights to prisoners. 
We demand an audit of the Prisoners’ Benefit Fund!

Rev. Edward Pinkney