When Lois DeMott's son was in prison in Michigan, she had difficulty dealing with corrections officials in trying to make sure his medical, mental health and other needs were being met. Through trial and error, DeMott became an expert in navigating the system. Now, reports the Detroit Free Press, Michigan is joining a handful of states by launching a pilot program in which DeMott will serve as a liaison between prisoners' families and officials at three prisons. “The prison system has its own language and its own jargon,” said DeMott, who is stepping down as president of Citizens for Prison Reform, which she cofounded in 2011. “It's a whole new world,” and “so many families don't even know where to begin or who to talk to.”
As well as closing that knowledge gap, DeMott hopes to increase the level of family support for Michigan prisoners, only about 12 percent of whom get visitors. More than 90 percent of prisoners will one day be released, and family and community support can help make sure they are less likely to re-offend, she said. If the pilot is successful, it could expand to more prisons. Illinois, California and Oregon have similar programs, DeMott said.