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Michigan prisoners can now watch funerals virtually after losing close family

Todd Ehlers
Flickr - creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

People incarcerated in Michigan prisons now have the chance to view funerals virtually.

The policy change took effect Monday and it's intended to help more inmates get closure after losing loved ones, Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Chris Gautz said.

"These are human beings who we have supervision over and we want to make sure that they have access to be able to say their final farewell," Gautz said.

Previously, only low-security prisoners could request leave to physically attend in-state memorial services.

Such approvals are rare, however. A corrections worker must volunteer to work an extra shift as an escort. And the prisoner or their family must cover costs that can average around $1,000 for wages, lodging and transportation, according to Gautz.

Now, any state inmate regardless of security status can request the warden's approval to watch a video stream of an immediate family member’s funeral.

Josh Hoe, host of the podcast Decarceration Nation, says the policy seems like a "humane" change.

"One of the hardest things for someone who's incarcerated to deal with is a close friend or family member dying while they're in prison," Hoe said.

Hoe, who was incarcerated for three years, hopes the policy brings relief to people behind bars.

"I think most people probably don't entirely understand how disconnected you are, " he said of prison. "Most of the ways that people can stay in contact with you require them to spend money to stay in contact with you, so it becomes an additional drain on people's resources."

Sarah Lehr is a politics and civics reporter for WKAR News.
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