I spent time behind iron bars

I was locked up in a state prison and I was locked up in a cell in the Tuscola County Jail. None of these incidents had anything to do with my lost youth.

I did these things as a search for articles I had written back when I was a full-time writer.

In the late 1990s, the state considered placing a juvenile prison in the county. Needless to say, the proposal created a lot of controversy for those who wanted it and those who didn’t want a “punk jail” in the county.

As part of my research, I spent a day in a juvenile correctional facility, checking out what it looked like so I could write some informative articles.

After creating a lot of turmoil and animosity, the state abandoned the idea of ​​such a prison.

Another aspect of my work as a traveling journalist in the 1990s was that I spent several hours locked up in a cell in Tuscola prison talking to inmates about the conditions there.

There was a guard inside the cell with me while I was doing the interviews, and another stood outside.

The inmates were polite and answered my many questions. As the interview progressed, the cell grew increasingly hot from the afternoon sun. This was one of the problems inmates complained about, that the cells were too hot or too cold and overcrowded.

After 25 years, I can’t remember most of the details of that interview.

The only thing I remember clearly to this day is when I was done and wanted to leave and couldn’t. There was a problem with the locking system when the corrections officer went to let me out.

The deputy who was in the cell with me stood behind me facing the inmates while the other correctional officer continued to shake the lock to open it. It only took a few minutes to open the door, it was the longest few minutes of my life.

Although this incident dates back approximately 25 years, nothing much has changed at the prison since then.

Over the years, I’ve written article after article about the many repairs that were just a band-aid to keep the 66-year-old prison operational and to comply with state regulations.

Every square inch of the prison is used. When the Michigan Department of Corrections said there must be specially designated meeting rooms, closets were used to meet this regulation.

For more than 20 years, various proposals for improving or replacing the prison have been launched. They were rejected either by voters or by some commissioners.

Once again, the construction of a new prison is proposed. Every year the price of a new prison has steadily increased, and the need for one has also steadily increased.

The problems at the prison that I have reported over the years are too numerous to mention.

However, I know one thing. I will not be interviewing inside the prison today for security reasons. I’m not particularly worried about the inmates. I won’t do it again for security reasons with the prison itself.

I am concerned for the safety of prison staff, inmates, and legal action the county may face if a tragedy occurs.

Mary Drier is a freelance journalist and columnist for the Huron Daily Tribune. She can be reached by emailing hdt_news@hearstnp.com.