By: Jon & Michael Flinner

Prisoners are fated to spend their days in earthly purgatory, exiled from society by their own actions in most cases. It can be said that the population behind the walls and fences of the nation’s correctional facilities represent significant destructive forces, and through individual “deeds”, lives and property have been destroyed and or lost.

At the same time in the greater world, there’s an existential crisis looming for more than 100,000 Americans. These people live on “borrowed time”, clinging to life in the face of unspeakable pain and horror, simply waiting for the gift of a life-saving organ transplant.

The government has an absolute duty to protect its citizenry. After all, that’s the rationale for the imprisonment of so many, well…that and the concept of repayment of societal debt, rehabilitation, restitution, and punishment for transgression. The word “penitentiary” says it all — a place to learn penitence. Right?

Why then if the government protects its citizens and the objective of imprisonment is to shape positive outcomes in the prisoner, that with a population exceeding 2.3 million incarcerated, that those in the free world awaiting organ and tissue transplants are deprived willing donors?

For whatever reason — call it apathy, oversight or the backward thinking of the eugenic bigot, a complete lack of government programs and protocol for the willing incarcerated to donate LIVING vital organs and tissues to those in need tends to be the “accepted norm”. In very rare cases however, it may be possible to donate to a family member, but the bureaucratic impediments are so substantial that the people literally die while awaiting authorization from a system over-riddled with red tape.

Isn’t it the least bit ironic that an ENTIRE segment of the nation’s population is EXCLUDED from the roles of the willing? While our states eagerly gobble up life, labor, income, and time from the imprisoned — ask them to “rehabilitate” themselves, they continue to deny them (prisoners) the opportunity to make THE ULTIMATE RESTITUTION — the only act that transcends all others. The gift of life!

Meanwhile the sick languish in such numbers that demand far-outstrips supply for match worthy donors while our government in all of its infinite wisdom allows this to go (and remain) unchecked. What one might have once rationalized as ignorance or unintentional indifference soon becomes much murkier. Ask yourself, “What is askew with these priorities?” If you think that I overstate the case, then why is it that everyone who seeks a drivers license at their local DMV is asked if they’d donate their organs in the event of death, yet no sooner than one leaves society for prison, there are so few considerations given to this theme? You see, you may have been a “donor” prior to incarceration, but once you pass through the gates of purgatory, your identity is stripped and replaced with a number. California is one state with what is known as ADVANCE HEALTHCARE DIRECTIVE. Once filled out, these forms provide the prison administration with instructions for your remains. In part three of this packet, there is a provision for POSTHUMOUS organ donations. Now that’s all fine and good, but with advances in transplant center donors selection criteria, healthy LIVING organs and tissues are preferred and as such, our efforts promise to join civic responsibility with innovative frontline Healthcare Services.

Misfortune tends to gain strength when good people do nothing. Promoting the general welfare deserving of publics who seek solutions rather than empty excuses, we’re committed to creating legislation for those whose bravery and dignity continue to inspire us — paving the way with what promises to become a sustainable nonprofit business model through which California (DEM) Senator, Cathleen Galgiani can offer and introduce a 2015 Senate Bill which seeks to permit state prisoners the means to voluntarily donate living vital organs and tissues — A bill slated to redefine rehabilitation and conscious giving senses of communal humanity without inducements for participation. This is about bridging the gap between life and death where we know nothing of bipartisanship. Death is the great bipartisan.

Our approach will demonstrate that prisoners once blood-typed and cleared, represent viable contributions to those in need, people who might otherwise die while more than ample resources exist. With bureaucracy swept under the carpet and legislative protocol installed, this agenda brings with it a humbling shared solution to those who will be hard-pressed to dismiss the sheer weight of numbers who stand nationally united and ready to make a difference.

Enlisting support from compassionate donors is but one piece of this puzzle. Everyone knows that California is the most progressive state in the country. With any luck, once this passes muster, other states will follow suit. Look, for all of the evil that exists behind prison walls, a greater evil would be letting a single individual die when there are untold riches in the form of willing masses who have, or know someone with a number beyond their names. What is justice if it isn’t the act of making something great come from something terrible? The very same logic in the opposite holds true — to create something bad from good intentions would be injustice.

This is about achieving social change through education, solidarity, advocacy, and simply doing the right thing. It’s not enough to simply dispel the myths that prisoners are without redeeming value, in this case it’s about replacing destruction with life. Luckily for us, social media provides a generous platform from which to foster these efforts online. A forthcoming venue at www.InmateOrgans.com will host a petition for you and yours to sign, Please do so.

With diverse views of national interest and a little devil in the details, our circumstances remain defined by consequences that demand we carve paths of change with conviction. The shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.

Still, as we climb ourselves out of infancy spirited by the galvanization of people into action, we’d ask that you and yours uphold our vision and pursuit. It’s anyone’s guess what may become of 2015 when this agenda slides across the desks of legislators, but the growing organ shortage requires that every potential donor be considered for use in transplantation. Help us denounce the wisdoms of the status quo where bureaucracy remains so resistant to change. This is a no-brainer.

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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