Hard time, long time

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News Hits recently heard from Anna Hoskins, mother of Vicki Hoskins, who was featured in our story on the conditions faced by inmates at Huron Valley women's prison in Ypsilanti ("Hard Time," March 2, 2005). It seems that things haven't changed much. "They get their mail two months late," Anna Hoskins says, "and they don't get hot water for showers. They get three uniforms to wear, and there's two working sinks for 64 women. The heat keeps going on and off. It's unsanitary."

Shannon Dunn, an Ann Arbor attorney who monitors conditions in the state's three women's correctional facilities, says the inmates' main complaint is that the recreation center is being used as a cafeteria, which means they don't get exercise if the guards don't feel like taking them outside. "They did fix some of the problems," Dunn says. "Before, they didn't have any heat anywhere and they were washing clothes by hand. Some of these things were fixed, but there are still pretty harsh conditions there." Dunn adds that Huron Valley still gets the most complaints of the three correctional facilities she monitors.

Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan says he's heard some of the complaints, but doesn't consider them to be that big a deal. He says the heating problems had been confined to the holiday season and were caused by the maintenance crew updating the heating system. As for the issues with the recreation center, he says the building now occupied by inmates was built without a cafeteria. Bidding is now under way for a new chow hall, with construction scheduled for next fall.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]

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