Are prison inmates not people? This is the question raised after Pennsylvania State Prisons remedied their overcrowding and sent inmates to state prisons in Virginia and Michigan. The inmate transfer process began in spring 2010. The inmates will return to Pennsylvania in 2013, when new correctional facilities are scheduled to be completed. The minuses this "solution" creates outweighs the pluses.

Green Rock Correctional Facility

In the spring of 2010, family and friends of Pennsylvania state inmates were notified their loved ones were being moved. In the end, select inmates were chosen to serve a portion of their time in State Correctional Facilities located in Muskegon, Michigan or Green Rock Correctional Facility in Virginia. These transfers will save the state of Pennsylvania roughly $20/ per inmate per day.

The criteria for transfer selection was as follows:

1. You are an inmate with good behavior and no health concerns.

2. You receive what the prisons view as minimal visitation.

This second piece of criteria caused the biggest uproar.

Stating that inmates who receive "minimal visitation" deserve to be moved out of state sends a powerful message. It tells the inmates they matter less due to circumstances out of their control. Many inmates have elderly or infirm parents who simply cannot make frequent long-distance visitation. When an overnight stay is required, families must financially plan for visitations. Inmates and their families are penalized for being poor-a not surprising event.

Placing inmates who receive infrequent visitation at a distance from friends and family makes future visitation incredibly difficult. The prison system has demonstrated a less then stellar job of transfer notification. Prison Administrators state transfers are never announced ahead of time due to security issues. Many families were informed of transfers through a phone call made by another inmate. There is something wrong with that.

Potential visitors must understand visitation rules differ for receiving prisons. These differences create possible visitation barriers. Due to paperwork and protocol, it might be weeks before a transferred inmate can receive a visitor.

The transfers have caused a disruption in the lives of families of the incarcerated in Michigan and Virginia. Individuals living near the respective correctional facilities in order to facilitate visitation of their loved ones find themselves suddenly uprooted. The arrival of Pennsylvania inmates means MI and VA inmates must moved. More visitation is disrupted. The transfers have created many far-reaching difficulties.

The sentiment of the transfers is surprising. Comments about the issue refer to the inmates and their loved ones as being less than human. One individual described the situation as "good riddance to city culture." Do the inmates deserve separation from their family? There is public satisfaction taken in the discomfort the felt by the inmates from placement in a new correctional facility. Society forgets every one of these inmates has a Mother, or one other person who cares if they live or die.

Supporting the business move initiated by the Pennsylvania State Prison system is hard. Research shows inmates who receive visitation are less likely to engage in negative prison activity. For many inmates visitation is a form of hope. It is a reminder that someone cares. Placing inmates 12 hours away in Michigan does not facilitate that process.