Behind bars - Lower Michigan violence
May 21, 2013
A recent note to HFP:
"I'm sorry have to live like this. These gangs are running wild...theft, stabbing, extortion and much more that I didn't really have to deal with my first 7 to 9 yrs. Its always been there but living in a two man cell you can sort of get away from it. Not in these 8man/160 units(hell)."
Starting the new week with Frederick Buechner
May 20, 2013
“The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.”
May 19, 2013
"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms."
I Peter 4:10 (NIV)
Behind bars - Reaction to 'Sweet Freedom'
May 17, 2013
After reading the book SWEET FREEDOM, this inmate writes:
"IF ANYONE KNOWS WHAT I AM FIGHTING AGAINST, IT IS YOU. BUT I AM NOT GOING TO QUIT!!! I DO NOT KNOW HOW!!! I AM INNOCENT OF THIS CRIME!!! AND I WILL KEEP SCRATCHING AND CLAWING TIL' SOMEONE LISTENS!! THEY ARE NOT GOING TO DO THE RIGHT THING AND I KNOW I NEED HELP!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH. S"
Behind bars - Hearing impaired
May 16, 2013
We have make no progress in helping the hearing impaired in the Michigan prison system, and so far we haven't been able to recruit the assistance of any advocacy agencies for the deaf. Here's a report from one prisoner who has been refused hearing aids:
"I was born deaf and have worn hearing aids since I was a child. Besides not getting hearing aids, I am not able to reach my family and friends, because the prison refuses to provide me with a video phone. I have two deaf brothers and deaf friends. I feel helpless, and would like to at least talk to my family. I am so looking forward to the day I can speak with them, and hear music. Deaf people do love to hear music, too...especially the sounds of instruments like drums and piano. All those hearing prisoners always listen to music here through TV and MP4. Why can't I?"
Behind bars - On treatment of the elderly
May 15, 2013
A recent letter to HFP -
"I am going to write you about this older lady who cannot use the computer and she is so old she must have a wheelchair to go to meals. But staff will not make anyone take her, so she pushes herself backwards. The problem is that the sidewalks are uneven and covered with bird poo from the geese. I wrote her Ass't Unit Manager about it. The trouble is that she could get hurt very badly and the little prison trucks could hit her. She do not see them in time and they go way too fast. She much too old to help herself. I am asking you to help. It has to be an outsider to get her help; I knew you be mad at the very evil ways she is treated. They down right mean to her."
Behind bars - Cuisine
May 14, 2013
A recent letter to HFP:
"HAVE YOU HEARD THE LATEST ON FOOD SERVICES GOING PRIVATE? SOME COMPANY NAMED ARAMARK GOT THE CONTRACT AND THE GUARDS TOLD ME I'M ABOUT TO GET A LOT THINNER THAN I ALREADY AM... GIVEN WHAT THEY PUT IN THEIR T.V. DINNERS AND BAG LUNCHES. SIGH."
Starting the week with Bonhoeffer
May 13, 2013
“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison
May 12, 2013
"The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern."
Proverbs 29:7 (NIV)
The MDOC's generous policy on wages
May 10, 2013
Quoting from the February, 2013, edition of MI-CURE NEWS:
The MDOC has shifted the cost of incarceration to persons who are incarcerated and their loved ones. Incarcerated persons make pennies an hour and have seen no wage increase in more than 25 years. Some have even seen pay cuts. Receiving wages that don't come close to meeting reasonable needs simply adds to the sense of hopelessness and helplessness.
The following factors add to the frustration of low wages:
-Commissary prices continue to rise with inflation
-Reductions in food portions have increased the need to purchase commissary food to supplement diets
-Individuals are required to purchase their own over-the-counter medications
-Sales tax is now added to purchases, including a tax on shipping and handling
-Prison food service no longer offers coffee, salt or pepper, leading some to purchase more from the commissary.
Behind bars - Special call
May 9, 2013
Wanna know what makes a prisoner's day special?
Hearing a grandson on the telephone: "Mason is two and yesterday he said 'I love you, Gampa' for the first time!!! I cried like a baby."
Behind bars - Multiple Sclerosis
May 8, 2013
This message arrived on the desk of HFP, thanks to the help of some other women in her facility.
"I cannot get H/C to do anything for me. I have multiple sclerosis, and they have taken me off all of my pain meds. In January, 07, my vision went out. One of my eyes was shooting every which way, while the other one was floating like a grape. But for 4-years I had been complaining to H/C about being in a lot of pain. Well, long story short. I was diagnosed May,18 of '07, and I began my treatment in Sept.'07. I was doing fine up until Jan., 2012, when out of the blue I was taken off the meds that were helping me,and placed on a medication that caused me more pain and problems. It also took out my hair. I have been trying to get put on another med, because I have stoped taking one,due to the harmful side effects. But H/C refuses to even try out another type of medication. There attitude is "You'll Take This, Or You Will Suffer.” Multiple Sclerosis is treated like a common cold in this place. I must do whatever I have to in order to relieve the pain. Whenever I grieve, they'll
either place me back on the call out to start the whole ordeal of seeing the nurse all over again, or they will tell me that the docter will do a chart review. Either way, I end up back at square one. With no resolve,and no help. My mind is so slow that it's taking me forever to get this letter out to you. I need some help real bad."
Behind bars - Race riot!
May 7, 2013
From Chippewa CF in the Upper Peninsula last weekend:
"They had a race riot yesterday in the Level IV section of the prison. They drove into the prison, right up to the unit a mini bus full of guards. Later a number of inmates were taken to the bus and transferred. This is starting to look like a repeat of last summer and the violence."
Starting the new week with anon
May 6, 2013
"I refuse to accept the things I cannot change. I choose to change that which I do not accept."
May 5, 2013
"The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed."
Psalm 103:6 (NIV)
A look at "Justice for Maurice Henry Carter"
May 3, 2013
Kalamazoo public radio station WMUK takes a look at the play "Justice for Maurice Henry Carter," being performed this weekend in Kalamazoo - http://bit.ly/165fyY2
Break a leg
May 2, 2013
This weekend you'll have an opportunity to hear me chat with Maurice Carter in heaven, in a staged reading of the powerful drama JUSTICE FOR MAURICE HENRY CARTER. Washington Productions will present the program tonight and tomorrow night at 8 in York Theatre on the campus of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. There will be two performances on Saturday, at 2 PM and 8 PM. No admission charge. It's a story of injustice that should be heard by everyone. If at all possible, do your best to take this in.
May 1, 2013
-A national report has placed Michigan first in the country in the length of time prisoners serve
-General fund spending on corrections is still over 2-billion despite cuts of salt and pepper, and reduction of toilet paper rolls per inmate
-More than 7,700 prisoners, 18% of the entire population, are beyond their earliest parole eligibility dates
-More than 1,500 people who are past their earliest release dates, have not gotten into the programs they need for parole consideration
Our thanks to the Michigan office off Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending, (CAPPS), for this information
Behind bars - Now it's your turn
April 30, 2013
Earlier today I thought we were making some progress on the toilet tissue problem at the Michigan's prison for women. But the situation is grave, and it's time for YOU to contact your State Representative and your State Senator to do something about this. Here are excerpts from two more letters sent to us by prisoners:
"I know women who have run out (cold, period, distress in the lower tract) and officers have refused to give them any more. They are told, “We don't have any,” “Go to your neighbor,” “Tough.” This is why some prisoners hoard. The toilet paper is single ply and harsh."
"Please keep in mind that we get no Kleenex, no paper towels, no napkins, no tissue of any sort. We seem to have money in the budget for the warden to have her office painted several times, for new cabinets to be installed, and lord knows what else. These conditions are unnecessary. Something has to change."
I submit the the limits on toilet tissue and sanitary pads are not budget-cutting steps at all, but simply pure harassment.
Here's how to find the names of your State Reps and Senators:
Would you contact your elected official if these letters were from your wife, or sister, or daughter? Well, these women all belong to someone, and it's our state that's treating them this way. Time to act.
Behind bars - Toilet paper
April 30, 2013
We seem to be making some progress on the toilet tissue problem at the women's prison in Ypsilanti. The warden's office informs us that the women are allotted TWO rolls of TP a week, not one. Apparently some staff members took it on themselves to limit the number to one roll in some units. But, it's single-ply tissue, and we challenge you to try to live on two rolls of single-ply tp, the cheap kind, for a week.
Here's what we heard from one of the women this week. Just imagine that this was the voice of your daughter, or sister, or wife:
"They are only providing us with two rolls of toilet paper per week and one bag of sanitary pads per month. This is inhumane! The quality of these items is the lowest that you can get. The toilet paper is too thin and does not last a day. Prisoners ask for more and are not receiving it. I was told that prisoners on the west side are tearing up pages from books and using newspaper sheets to take care of their business, especially those who bleed heavily."
Gifts have ribbons, not strings
April 29, 2013
I can't really say why our friendship has blossomed. John Aslin is a lifer, and HFP hasn't really been able to help him the way I wish we could. His wife Pam has serious prison visiting issues, and we really haven't been able to help her the way I wish we could. And yet, we have become friends. Real friends. Genuine friends. We have never met each other face-to-face. That will happen someday, but it's certainly not necessary to enrich our friendship.
I say all of this to explain how surprised Marcia and I were to open a large parcel that arrived in the mail last weekend. It was carefully packed, so we knew we had to remove the contents gingerly.
It was a package from John and Pam. Those who know me know that one of my treasured possessions was the red Studebaker GT Hawk that I owned for years. It is still perhaps one of my favorite cars.
John, a fine artist and leather-worker, had hand-crafted a beautiful real working clock, 13 by 16 inches, featuring the impressive front grille of a red 1964 Studebaker GT Hawk.
What a precious gift! Almost as precious as our friendship.
Starting the week with sweat
April 29, 2013
"Both tears and sweat are salty, but they render a different result. Tears will get you sympathy; sweat will get you change."
April 28, 2013
"...live in harmony with one another; be compassionate and humble."
I Peter 3:8 (NIV)
HIS MEN 40th Anniversary Concert
April 26, 2013
FINAL HIS MEN 40TH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT
The third and final presentation of the HIS MEN 40TH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT will take place in Holland, Michigan, on Sunday, May 5.
The western Michigan male chorus observed his 40th anniversary with a concert in Grand Haven last fall. Because of it's popularity, two more programs were scheduled---one in the Greater Grand Rapids area, and one for the Holland-Zeeland area.
The program features music by the existing male chorus, as well as selections including former choir members. John Mattson of Muskegon is director of the group, and Sherry Merz of Spring Lake is accompanist.
HFP President Doug Tjapkes is founding director of the group, and will direct some of the pieces. A free will offering will be taken for HFP.
The concert will begin at 5 PM at Maranatha Christian Reformed Church, and everyone is welcome. It'll be a great evening of great music.
Behind bars - Legal documents
April 25, 2013
Confiscation of legal documents, especially when prisoners are preparing legal action against the state, is a huge problem in Michigan prisons.
This message was received this week:
"This place keeps sending the 2 worst officers to search my room, and they both tore through my legal work like a hurricane, ripping papers. They may have taken some...I am too busy to search through everything to find out. I am researching whether the Federal Bureau of Prisons has some ironclad rules about guards handling legal material. I'm going to strive in my lawsuit for stricter actions against COs that "lose" legal materials. There must be some kind of punishment to deter them from doing it again."
Behind bars - The beat goes on
April 23, 2013
"Another old inmate was attacked yesterday. His face was slashed with a razor. The inmate is 72 years old, can barely hear, and is losing it mentally. I had been trying to help with his medical problems. Gary did not bother anyone, so why in the h... was he attacked? It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. It seems the violence level is taking an up-tick again. It bothers me and worries me."
Starting a new week after the tragedy in Boston
April 22, 2013
"You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you."
April 21, 2013
"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
Galations 6:2 (NIV)
Communications Challenges Inside Prisons
April 19, 2013
An article from a former Deputy Warden in the Arizona Department of Corrections, Carl ToersBijns - http://yhoo.it/15rem0W
Prison Family Bill of Rights
April 18, 2013
News from the Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE) newsletter:
Coalition of prison family members and representatives of secular and
faith based organizations serving prison families from across the United
States in attendance at the 2012 National Prisoner’s Family Conference
affirmed the following:
Prison Family has the right to be treated with respect and dignity by
any and all representatives of the prison system at all times.
Prison Family has the right to expect and be assured the utmost care is
established and maintained to provide a healthy and safe living
environment that promotes effective rehabilitation, reintegration and
parole planning throughout a loved one’s incarceration.
Prison Family has the right to be treated and integrated as a positive
resource in the process of rehabilitation and reintegration preparation
and parole planning of an incarcerated loved one.
Prison Family has the right to receive consistency in the enforcement
of rules; regulations and policies affecting a loved one’s
Prison Family has the right to receive consistency in the enforcement
of rules; regulations and/or policies affecting visitation and/or all
forms of communication with an incarcerated loved one.
Prison Family has the right to be informed in a timely, clear,
forthright and respectful manner of any changes in rules; regulations
and/or policies affecting visitation and/or communication with an
incarcerated loved one.
Prison Family has the right to be informed within 24 hours and in a
compassionate manner regarding the illness; injury and/or death of an
incarcerated loved one.
The Prison Family has the right to extended visitation during the hospitalization of an incarcerated loved one.
Prison Family has the right to be informed within 24 hours of the
security status change and/or transfer of an incarcerated loved one to a
Prison Family has the right to be provided specific written and
evidenced-based reasons for a loved one’s security status change;
clemency denial and/or parole denial.
The Prison Family has the right to have their incarcerated loved one housed within a distance from their permanent
address that provides reasonable access for visitation and/or to
facilitate serving as a resource in the rehabilitation and reintegration
preparation and parole planning of their incarcerated loved one.
Prison Family has the right to be provided the current specific name or
names and direct phone numbers of prison officials to contact for
questions about their incarcerated loved one.
The term “Prison Family” is herein defined as including, but not
limited to a blood or adopted relation, spouse, domestic partner and/or
trusted friend designated by an incarcerated person upon or during a
period of confinement as one who will serve as an outside contact on his
or her behalf for the relaying of any communication regarding the
medical and mental health, security status and location of the
incarcerated person and/or for making critical decisions on behalf of
the incarcerated person in the event of his or her incapacitation.
To send a message to CURE please click here.
News Release from Washington Productions
April 17, 2013
Please see the attached release from Washington Productions Inc. regarding the play "Justice for Maurice Henry Carter." Click HERE
Letter from jail
April 16, 2013
In honor of its 50th anniversary today, please take a moment to read this letter written by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Click HERE
Starting the week with Charles Kingsley
April 15, 2013
"There's no use doing a kindness if you do it a day too late."
- Charles Kingsley
April 14, 2013
"Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people." Isaiah 10:1-2 (NIV)
Behind bars - Culinary delight
April 12, 2013
"The other day I had to catch myself because the Food Steward was so precise in measuring out mashed potatoes and sloppy joe. I wanted to say something like, 'You know, when you treat other people badly, that sort of thing has a way of showing back up in your life.'
"For a while they were talking about privatizing the food service department for the whole prison system, but found out that it would actually, over the long haul, cost more.
"But Doug, you know they say it gets pretty bad just before the wheels fall off ... and believe me, brother, its gotten pretty bad!"
State Appelate Defender Office Info Sessions
April 11, 2013
From our friends at Citizens for Prison Reform:
State Appellate Defender Office Hosts Informational Session for Friends and Family
Next Sessions are May 29 in Lansing and May 30 in Detroit
SADO invites family, friends, and loved ones of newly incarcerated individuals to an Informational Session on what to expect after a loved one is convicted of a crime and sentenced to the Michigan Department of Corrections. SADO staff will be on hand to address the process of a criminal appeal, visiting policies of the MDOC, how to communicate with an inmate housed in the MDOC, and will provide a list of basic resources for clients and their families. The sessions, which are free of cost, are located in SADO's Detroit and Lansing offices. The focus is for friends and family of SADO clients, but all are welcome. Space is limited, so please RSVP at least two days in advance by calling 313-256-9833 (tel:313-256-9833) . For more information about the event and information on free parking options, please visithttp://www.sado.org/Articles/Article/119.
Please know that the specifics of an individual's case will not be discussed and no legal advice will be given at these sessions.
Upcoming Sessions: Wednesday May 29, 2013 at 5:00 p.m. at SADO Lansing located at 101 North Washington, 14th Floor, Lansing, MI 48913. And Thursday May 30, 2013 at 5:30 p.m. at SADO Detroit located at 645 Griswold, Penobscot Building, Suite 3300, Detroit, MI 4822
Justice for Maurice Henry Carter
April 10, 2013
News from WPI Spring
"Delightful, interesting, thought
123 Street Name City, ST -
Restorative Justice Coalition of West Michigan meeting today
April 9, 2013
This is a reminder that the next meeting of the Restorative Justice Coalition of West Michigan will take place today at 4:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at Grand Rapids Community College, DeVos/East Fulton Campus, Sneden Hall, Room 103. Please park in the Ellis Parking lot behind the building off Fountain Street. Parking will be reimbursed. The agenda for the meeting is attached. Thanks!
Restorative Justice Coalition of West Michigan
Click HERE for agenda
Starting the week with Desmond Tutu
April 8, 2013
"Compassion is not just feeling with someone, but seeking to change the situation. Frequently people think compassion and love are merely sentimental. No! They are very demanding. If you are going to be compassionate, be prepared for action!"
April 7, 2013
"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
Galations 6:2 (NIV)
April 5, 2013
Commentary from Buzzflash.com:
The Vast Majority of People in US Prisons Shouldn't Be There, Period, But They Are Profitable Chattel http://bit.ly/Xeiw7n
From Michigan Campaign for Justice
April 4, 2013
For Immediate Release
April 3, 2013
Contact: Matt Resch (517) 862-2075
Michigan Court of Appeals Allows Duncan Case to Move Ahead
Ruling a call to action for lawmakers to reform public defense services in Michigan
Today, the Michigan Court of Appeals released an opinion affirming a lower court ruling in Duncan et. al. v. State of Michigan, allowing the case to move forward in Ingham County Circuit Court and denying again the State’s efforts to have the case dismissed. In the Duncan case, plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit from three counties asked the court to declare that failures in Michigan’s public defense system violated their right to counsel under the U.S. and Michigan Constitutions.
In agreeing with the lower court, the Appeals Court said, “Without an action such as this, and assuming plaintiffs' allegations are true, indigent persons who are accused of crimes in Michigan will continue to be subject to inadequate legal representation without remedy unless such representation adversely affects the outcome. Our system of justice requires effective representation, not ineffective but non-outcome determinative representation."
In response to today’s release from the court, Marcela Westrate, executive director of the Michigan Campaign for Justice, said that the ruling reinforces the desperate need for legislators to pick up where they left off in 2012 and adopt bipartisan indigent defense reform legislation.
“This ruling is very important for our system as a whole but also as a call to action for state legislators that reform is needed and that their work on this important constitutional problem is required. Indigent defense reform was not on the list of issues completed in the last legislative session, but lawmakers have been working on it again this spring and now is the time to make it happen.”
In June 2012, State Reps. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) and Ellen Lipton (D-Huntington Woods) introduced bipartisan legislation creating a new statewide, permanent commission to oversee indigent defense services in Michigan. The commission would establish statewide standards, identify and share best practices and provide recommendations for funding, bringing the state closer to constitutional compliance than it has ever been. The legislation attracted more than 65 co-sponsors in the State House, both Republicans and Democrats, and was approved by the House in early November with amendments adding oversight by the Michigan Supreme Court.
NOTE: The Campaign for Justice is not involved with the Duncan lawsuit. For more information regarding the litigation, please contact Frank Eamon and Michael Steinberg at ( 313-578-6814) .
CPR Monthly Meeting
April 3, 2013
Attached is the monthly meeting flyer from our friends at Citizens for Prison Reform - click HERE
Behind bars - Not a good day
April 2, 2013
"This day is not ending good. Officers came to my room at 3 PM and took all my personal and legal paper work...even the paper I was writing my crochet stitches on. They took my metered envelopes, writing tablets and all paper! I do not know what they are looking for, as I have all my stuff legally, but I believe it is retaliation for a lawsuit I either worked on or am working on. It has me really shaken, as I believe this is being done to take my job and even possibly lock me up! They even took the lock off my locker??? I know that you cannot help me physically,. but I ask that you and your volunteers keep me in your prayers. -Jill "
Starting the new week by caring
April 1, 2013
“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Easter Sunday Verse
March 31, 2013
"He is not here; he has risen, just as he said."
Matthew 28:6 (NIV)
NY Times - Cardinal Dolan visits prison
March 29, 2013
Timothy M. Dolan joked to the inmates at Shawangunk
Correctional Facility that he had been locked in recently ? of
course, it was in the Sistine
copy and paste this URL into your browser: http://nyti.ms/XI0F5N
Behind bars - What prisoners think of HFP
March 28, 2013
How do prisoners feel about HFP?
"I just got mail from you today and inside was a letter that you wrote the parole board. It was awesome ! You are a great help to us and I am so blessed to have had you do all this for me! I will hold the letter close to my heart and my prayers continue to be with you for God to hold you close under his wings and bless you with his grace and goodness. I am so thankful this organization is there for us! God bless you! -Lorraine"
CPR on Rock Center
March 27, 2013
Our friend Lois DeMott, founder of CITIZENS FOR PRISON REFORM, was interviewed for a story on the topic of teenagers in solitary confinement that aired on NBC's Rock Center last week. Many of our supporters will remember the dramatic photographs of her son Kevin, chained to the floor in a Michigan prison. If you didn't have a chance to watch the show on Friday, here is a link to watch: http://rockcenter.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/22/17420637-former-juvenile-prisoner-fights-against-locking-away-teens-in-solitary-confinement?lite
Behind bars - Heartache
March 26, 2013
"My mother passed away yesterday. The worst fear of anyone in prison just came to pass for me. Now my faith is tested to the max. I am sad beyond description."
Carter play gains momentum
March 25, 2013
Plans are complete for three presentations of JUSTICE FOR MAURICE HENRY CARTER in Kalamazoo, it was announced today. Washington Productions Inc. of Kalamazoo will present staged readings of the play on the campus of Western Michigan University the first weekend in May. Dr. Von Washington, who personally will play the role of Maurice Carter, reports that the readings with music will begin at 8 PM nightly on May 2, 3 and 4, in the York Arena of WMU.
The play, written by Donald Molnar and Alicia Payne of Toronto, tells the story of how a middle-class white man and an indigent black man came to call each other “brother,” and work side by side for justice in a case of wrongful conviction. Veteran actor and retired broadcaster Garrard Macleod will play the role of Doug Tjapkes, also a retired broadcaster.
Dr. Washington stated that the dramatic reading will be sponsored by the WMU Department of Theatre and the Racial Healing Grant.
There will be no admission charge, but seating is limited.
Starting the week with kindness
March 25, 2013
"I choose kindness… I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me" - Max Lucado
Rock Center Viewer Note
March 22, 2013
Ted Koppel came to Michigan to interview our friend Lois DeMott, founder of CITIZENS FOR PRISON REFORM, on the topic of teenagers in solitary confinement. Many of our supporters will remember the dramatic photographs of her son Kevin, chained to the floor in a Michigan prison. Portions of that interview are expected to air this evening on ROCK CENTER WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS. Check your local listing for time.
Behind bars - Predators vs. Prey
March 21, 2013
How would feel hearing these words from your son, father, brother or husband?
"I'm living in a nest of dangerous snakes just waiting to strike. These gang people are on every wing in the housing unit, and it's the same in every housing unit. The non-gang members, and especially the Christians, are open prey. That is the reality of what the MDOC system has become, and they have allowed it to happen by not segregating gang members and keeping them locked down. Society takes these criminals off the streets and puts them into the prison system, where they are allowed to run free to victimize whomever they want in general population."
Behind bars - Why there is heartbreak
March 20, 2013
"My wish came true. I finally got a decision from the Cooley Law School Innocence Project. Just not the one I was hoping for. Last night I got a package from them containing all of the information on my case that they obtained during their investigation.
"In their letter they explained to me the reason that they cannot help is because the State Police destroyed all of the remaining evidence in 2006, therefore there is no longer anything that can be used for testing. What I don't understand is how they can destroy the evidence. Isn't this stuff supposed to stay on file for a very long time?"
Behind bars - On death and dying
March 19, 2013
"Yes, Kim died here. Four months ago they said her cancer was all gone. Now she is dead. This is the same thing that happened to Tracy. It is so sad. There are three other gals in the infirmary with cancer. I sure do hope they are not telling them the same thing. All I can do is pray for them. But why do they lie?"
Starting the week with Ralph Waldo Emerson
March 18, 2013
"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well." -Ralph Waldo Emerson
March 17, 2013
"This is what the Lord says: Maintain justice and do what is right..."
Isaiah 56:1 (NIV)
Behind bars - More heat issues
March 15, 2013
Once again, women in one of the prison units at Ypsilanti are freezing. Here's the message we received from a reliable source this morning:
"Once again need your help cause whatever you did last time eventually it worked. They have decided to freeze us out as of last Friday. Almost a week now. We have been complaining to all three shifts and the counselor and maintenance. We are layered up again at least three layers of clothing or more. The cold air return kicked on high as of the 8th, and do you think we can get anyone to come and turn the blowers down? They do temp checks and when it gets to 62 degrees they come and pull it while the temp is still dropping in the room. Had to sleep with our door open all night last night or we would have been literally frozen by morning. All i know is that I am tired of going through all this crap like everyone else. They tell us to go through chain of command and we do and it gets us no where. Lord help them for this intentional punishment that they keep doing to us. People cant even sit in there rooms, and when they try they are layered up with three layers of clothing and wearing their coats in the room. Staff looks at us like we are crazy... go figure!!! I'm sorry but how would they like it if they were forced to freeze to death at night while trying to sleep! Everything was fine how it was before the 8th of this month. No one was complaining or anything. I'm just really upset that we have to keep going through this . they are never held accountable for not doing their jobs. anything you can do to help would be sooooooo appreciated!"
We're trying, Ladies.
Video Podcast features HFP
March 15, 2013
HFP President Doug Tjapkes and Crossroad Ministry President David Schuringa discuss prisons, prisoners, and the work of HFP in this new quarter-hour TV presentation. Click HERE - http://cbi.fm/portfolio-view/ex-dragster-revs-up-for-inmates/
Behind bars - Hearing impaired update
March 14, 2013
Here's the latest word from our friend Mary, who has worn hearing aids all of her adult life, but who has been denied hearing aids since she entered prison 4 years ago. She hears nothing.
"The warden came here to meet with us about the dog program without providing me with an interpreter. A prisoner was assigned to write notes about what the warden was saying, but she couldn't keep up. I just stopped and left upset when the warden decided not to continue the dog program.
"I finally got called out to MOMS IN TOUCH program, but when I went to the program the volunteers didn't know about me needing an interpreter, even though I asked the chaplain for one when I signed up.
"The chaplain has also refused to get me certified interpreters for religious services and Bible Study classes.
"Everyone has avoided responses so far."
Letter to legislators
March 13, 2013
This is what our friend Mary Ann wrote. She suggests you modify it to fit your thoughts and send it out to your State Representatives and State Senators:
I pay taxes and vote in all elections. For way too long I have been a part of the "silent majority." No more. I will no longer stand silently by while "no one watches the store."
This is a particular concern of mine: Michigan Department of Corrections. My concern is that it has become the Michigan Department of CORRUPTION! I have a friend who is incarcerated. He is educated, erudite and writes that the food is inedible. Now, I am hearing it from multiple sources. Two women in Level 4 whom I have tried to help no longer get hot meals, and NO FRUIT!
I have just received the following report from HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS: On Salisbury steak day the population was served a lumpy meat-like substance. Several of the food stewards told us not to eat it. It had a VERY BAD smell. It turns out it was all leftovers from the freezer ground together. One of the inmate kitchen staff told me he watched several custody staff load the actual steaks on a personal truck. I tried to bring it to the warden's attention. I was transferred, instead, and all my legal work was seized.
Make the Department of Corrections "clean their own house," and terminate dishonest employees.
I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.
Behind bars - Violence at Bellamy Creek
March 12, 2013
A new report of violence last weekend in a lower Michigan facility:
"A few days ago a guy was severely beaten by his roommate, who did not want to room with him. They were both in protective custody. Yes, they have two men to a room in protection as well. When they refused to move him he decided to assault the old guy, but no one expected what actually happened. This guy tied up the old man and beat him all night long until morning time when the officers discovered what had happened. Here's the thing. They are required to make rounds every hour to ensure that we are still here and still alive, because we are all locked into our rooms at night at this facility. So how the officers did not notice all the blood and the entire thing is beyond me. The victim was on life support for a while, but he didn't make it."
March 11, 2013
A special invitation to all of our friends in the greater Grand Rapids area. HIS MEN will present a repeat performance of the 40th anniversary concert of last fall this coming Sunday, March 17, 5 PM, at Ridgewood Christian Reformed Church of Jenison. The concert will feature selections by the current group, as well as pieces sung by past and present members. It's a great evening of music by a great group, and an offering will be taken for HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS. We hope to see you there.
Starting the week with George Washington Carver
March 11, 2013
"How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these."
- George Washington Carver
March 10, 2013
"I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight..."
Jeremiah 9:24 (NIV)
Why your monthly support of HPF is SO important!
March 8, 2013
Appeals that have crossed the HFP desk in the past 24 hours:
"A lady in the infirmary is dying. Kim has only 40 days, and might not make it that far.
Cancer through her whole body. Please help her go home."
"I need copies of the transcripts and documentation because the MDOC prison authorities
confiscated and destroyed the property I possessed."
"I have two new clients coming to you. I told both of them to write you, to see what you can do
to get them outta here."
"It is so nice of you. 99% of my family is dead in the 22 years I have been locked up. My half
brother comes twice a year because he has to, then falls asleep for most of the visit. But I
thank the Lord. I have no one at all."
"My son is a good person, loves his family and friends, and loves his country. He served in the Navy right out of high school. He has been incarcerated for 4 years for a false accusation of
molesting his daughter. No priors."
"I would like to obtain the information. The MDOC confiscated it."
Behind bars - Release dates for women
March 7, 2013
Another in our series of pieces on how we treat women in prison in Michigan
"This facility does not release prisoners but on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays...contrary to the men's facilities state-wide releasing prisoners on each and every business day of the week. Reportedly, men and women should be treated equally by the MDOC. Why should a woman stay in prison additional days, just because her release day fell on Friday, for example? In that case, she cannot be released until Tuesday."
Behind bars - Update on Chippewa Violence
March 6, 2013
"I have been here since November, and in this short time I have been threatened by 3 different people from 3 different gangs. So far, I've been able to avoid injury by avoiding the yard and staying out of the dayrooms or common areas.
"I have 6 years until my early release date, and I have to wonder if I'll ever make that. I have 4 children at home with my wife, and a child in college. I have hope and the expectation of returning to my life and my family. I made a mistake (albeit a big one), but I feel that I should be afforded the opportunity to do this sentence without suffering physical, possible permanent injury, or loss of life."
Behind bars - Prison cuisine
March 5, 2013
"I was the food service representative. On Salisbury steak day, the population was served a lumpy meat-like substance. Several of the food stewards told us not to eat it. It had a VERY BAD smell. It turns out it was all leftovers from the freezer ground together. One of the inmate kitchen staff told me he watched several custody staff load the actual steaks on a personal truck. I tried to bring it to the warden's attention. I was transferred, instead, and all my legal work seized."
Starting the week with St. Augustine
March 4, 2013
"What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like."
- St. Augustine
March 3, 2013
"The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death."
Psalm 102:19-20 (NIV)
Behind bars - No fruit for the girls
March 1, 2013
"Girls in Level Four (more serious crimes) receive only cold meals. They are served on regular trays, but there is no hot food. Besides that, the prison system has now stopped giving them fruit. Girls in Level Four may have no fruit. Very sad."
Behind bars - Life without hearing aids
February 28, 2013
We recently reported that the state has refused to give Mary hearing aids, even though she has worn them all her adult life prior to going to prison.
This week, she explains to HFP what a problem this is in her life:
"I'm involved in the dog program here. It means a lot to have hearing aids, to hear the dogs' whinings, growlings and barkings. Plus, I love to go to church services here, where they have lots of music. I would love to hear the sounds of those songs, not just feel the vibrations of the music. Please let's not give up on this issue."
One more note to your State Representative will help. This is ridiculous.
Behind bars - Who needs to hear?
February 27, 2013
HFP has been working with the state Legislative Ombudsman's Office re a complaint from the women's prison in Ypsilanti. A friend there reports that she has worn hearing aids all of her adult life, but since she has been in prison she has been denied hearing aids. Also steps have not been taken to assist the hearing impaired in worship services. Also steps have not been taken to improve the telephone system for the hearing impaired.
Now comes this message from the Ombudsman's Office:
"No good news at the moment. MDOC does not appear to be willing to issue hearing aids to the affected prisoners at the moment. However, we are continuing to research this issue and will see where that takes us."
Behind bars - Gangs require rent
February 26, 2013
Now comes this report from Coldwater:
"Another guy got beat down by one of the gangs here. Three of them beat a guy with the legs of a walker for not bowing to their demands for rent in the unit. Can you believe that? I got to get out of here!"
Concluding Black History Month with one of MLK's finest quotes
February 25, 2013
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter"- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
February 24, 2013
"God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them."
Hebrews 6:10 (NIV)
Justice for Maurice Henry Carter
February 22, 2013
What a moment! After serving 29 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Maurice Carter was freed for medical reasons in 2004. Here, he meets his mother for the first time in freedom, at a reception in Spring Lake, Michigan.
You'll want to hear the entire story, as told in the compelling stage play JUSTICE FOR MAURICE HENRY CARTER, this week Friday and Saturday. The Calvin Theatre Company will present a staged reading of the play, written by Donald Molnar and Alicia Payne, at 7:30 PM on the 22nd and 23rd in Gezon Auditorium on the Calvin College Campus. Admission is free.
Veteran thespians to play Carter and Tjapkes
February 21, 2013
Two outstanding actors, both well-known in western Michigan theatre circles, will play the roles of Maurice Carter and Doug Tjapkes in a Calvin College production this weekend. Dr. Debra Freeberg, producer of a staged reading of JUSTICE FOR MAURICE HENRY CARTER, announced that Dr. Von H. Washington of Kalamazoo will play Maurice; and Robert Meyering of Grand Rapids will play Doug.
Washington has spent more than 25 years bringing stories about black culture and history to life through play-writing, acting, directing and teaching. The award-winning playwright is co-owner, with his wife Fran, of WASHINGTON PRODUCTIONS in Kalamazoo. He had written more than 25 plays, which have been performed in the US and abroad.
Meyering is also a veteran actor. The former Christian Reformed Church minister---now an administrator at Calvin College---has appeared in many productions here in western Michigan.
The play to be featured in staged readings Friday and Saturday evenings was written by Donald Molnar and Alicia Payne of Toronto, and tells the story of the 9-year battle to gain Carter's freedom from prison. He served 29 years for a crime he did not commit.
The two performances will begin at 7:30 PM, presented by the Calvin Theatre Company in Gezon Auditorium. There will be no admission charge.
Behind bars - More from Carson City
February 20, 2013
"The State Police were in the housing unit during the night taking pictures, because my neighbor in the cell next door got raped, supposedly in the shower. Apparently the victim reported what happened, and so they locked up the guy who raped him. It's crazy the violence going on in the system nowadays. Apparently the guy who raped this kid had a past history as a predator. Word is that he had previously killed a cell-mate also."
Behind bars - Penny wise/pound foolish
February 19, 2013
The friend of a Michigan inmate writes:
"Isn't that about how the saying goes? The MDOC in its infinite wisdom is making the inmates who still have 45-cent envelopes fill out a Disbursement Form for ONE CENT...to be processed through who-knows-how-many-places to take that penny from an inmate's account. If they had a POUND of common sense, wouldn't it be a great day? Even an ounce of common sense would be a blessing."
Justice for Maurice Henry Carter
February 19, 2013
This was a historic day in 2004. Maurice Carter walked out of prison as a free man. Here he is accompanied by his cousin Mary Blackwell, and HFP President Doug Tjapkes. Maurice was freed by Governor Granholm because he was critically ill, and desperately needed a liver transplant. Cameras were forbidden, and this sneak shot is the only photograph of the event.
You have an opportunity to hear the story of the Carter/Tjapkes battle for freedom Friday and Saturday evenings, February 22-23, 7:30, at Calvin College in Grand Rapids. The Calvin Theatre Company will present a staged reading of the powerful play JUSTICE FOR MAURICE HENRY CARTER, written by Donald Molnar and Alicia Payne. There will be no admission charge. A panel discussion will follow each performance.
Starting a new week in Black History Month
February 18, 2013
"Quite belatedly, I came to see that mass incarceration in the United States had, in fact, emerged as a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow."
- Michelle Alexander, Author, THE NEW JIM CROW
February 17, 2013
"Who is like you, O Lord? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them."
Psalm 35:10 (NIV)
Justice for Maurice Henry Carter
February 15, 2013
When Governor Jennifer Granholm took her time
considering a request to release Maurice Carter for medical reasons, Doug chose
a billboard truck---parked right across the street from her office window in
Lansing---to encourage action. Residents of western Michigan can hear the
entire story, as the Calvin Theatre Company presents a staged reading of JUSTICE
FOR MAURICE HENRY CARTER. The reading of this powerful drama, written
by award-winning playwrights Alicia Payne and Donald Molnar, will be presented
next Friday and Saturday nights, beginning at 7:30, in the Gezon Auditorium of
Calvin College in Grand Rapids. A panel discussion will follow. The
program is free to the general public.
Surviving behind bars
February 15, 2013
How the good guys try to survive among the gang-bangers -
"The quiet, docile and well-behaved prisoner is put right in the middle of the loud, violent trouble-making gangsters and expected to somehow make it on his own. These men are beaten, robbed, abused, raped, and sometimes they die or commit suicide. Many of us through sheer will power and prayer just last out the evil in hopes of going home some future day...some don't.
"The MDOC overlooks simple things, too. If a prisoner is blessed enough to receive a secure-pak care package from the world, he is often never allowed to enjoy it. They call prisoners out to pick them up at the front of the compound while the yard is open. The clear plastic bag of up to $85 worth of food and cosmetics is slung over your shoulder for the death-defying walk across the yard to your cellblock. Men are at the very least harassed, often robbed going across the yard, and always noted by name, unit and prisoner number/cell as having 'goods' for later robbing or extortion. Much of that would stop by delivering the bags by cellblock."
On wives of prisoners
February 14, 2013
I so admire the attitude of inmate family members, who refuse to march along to the drumbeat of the Department of Corrections. Listen to this wife:
"The MDOC makes it miserable for the older inmates. It's getting easier for the punks to prey on these weaker guys, stealing and destroying bits of valuable lifetime keepsakes. The elders can't write to their old friends in other prisons any more. Poor health care, if any. Don't have the courage or energy to hike to chow for a nasty small amount of food. Lay on a bunk, hopeless and dying from sadness...WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!
"If I'd ever win a big lottery ticket I'd buy the whole State of Michigan and have heads rolling like bowling balls til things got right! I'd have pizzas delivered by the truck load; McDonald's by the truckload; KFC by the truckload; LL Bean winter clothes by the truckload. And we'll have things passed out by age...70s first, then 60s and 50s. The punks can deliver to those who can't wait in line. And the National Guard can oversee everything to make sure the punks remember the rules. GRRRRRRRRRRRR
More violence behind bars
February 13, 2013
Reports of violence are spreading. This fresh report from a lower Michigan prison:
"I am very concerned about the increased violence on this compound. We had a murder the other night, stabbings and beatings all over the place, and gang robbings are way up, too. There is constant fear of attack...I am targeted often for being such a model prisoner...must be a snitch or rat in their eyes to be doing so many things right. Never occurred to them I might just be a decent person looking to get my integrity and dignity back."
Behind bars - Sad ending
February 12, 2013
Sad ending to a sad story.
You may remember the story from Carson City recently, where a prisoner jimmied the lock on his cell so he could beat up his roommate without interference by the guards. They had to tear down the cell door to stop the assault. The young victim was taken to the hospital, and the assailant was placed in segregation. Now comes this update:
"As for the youngster, the latest word is that he's OK now, out of the hospital, and is no longer in this facility.
"The latest on the guy who tried to kill him is that he committed suicide in the hole here a couple days ago. Being that he killed a cellie in the past and now tried to do it again, he knew he was headed back to Level 5, so the word is that's why he hanged himself. I guess he won't be harming anyone else."
Behind bars - How to curb prison violence
February 12, 2013
Friends of HPF know of our concerns about increased
gangland violence in Michigan prisons. The front page of our February
newsletter was devoted to the subject:
Recognizing that it is easy to criticize, HFP
determined that the responsible next step would be to offer some ideas to begin
dealing with the problem. We enlisted the aid of a new consultant on our
team, a former official of the MDOC whose identity we must protect for obvious
reasons. This person with inside knowledge of the system penned the
following open letter to the director of the MDOC:
An open letter to Daniel Heyns,
Director of the MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
A former insider at the MDOC
Dear Mr. Heyns:
I reviewed recent reports on Gangland
Violence in our Michigan prisons. The increased violence is disturbing and
provides sufficient grounds to place a challenge on your desk.
MDOC policy and related institutional operating
procedures require regular searches of inmates and sleeping areas. If you
want to determine if these searches are productive you simply need to review the
shakedown records. What does it mean if no
contraband is found and/or recorded?
I challenge you to wait until the start of a
month, and give each Warden one hour
to FAX the search records for the previous month to your office. One thing is
certain: the results will either be most revealing or most embarrassing. Some
Wardens may be foolish enough to send photographs of weapons collected over the
years, but the written record provides a more factual basis to support a job
well-done or something less.
I submit that
administrative staff can take steps to improve the search
results: 1) Supervise how staff conduct
their respective searches on a random basis; 2) If staff do not improve their
record of contraband found, rotate that person to another work area or apply
disciplinary action; 3)Watch for inmates loitering near officer stations...this
may indicate that some staffers have become overly familiar with inmates, may
provide minimal searches of those inmates, or may even alert them to a pending
search; (4, If OT funds are available, search teams can be formed and portions
or all of a living unit may be searched. If living units have open windows,
non-custody observers can be stationed outside to pinpoint the source of any
contraband thrown outside. It is my opinion that increasing the number of
weapons confiscated will decrease incidents of related violence.
that other factors are also contributing to the violence.
more inmates will join gangs to protect themselves when they believe staff will
not or cannot protect them.
One who has been there
Starting the week, in Black History Month, with Rosa Parks
February 11, 2013
"I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear." -Rosa Parks
February 10, 2013
"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good."
Romans 12:9 (NIV)
Memo from Doug
February 8, 2013
My emotions are riding high these days. I'm pawing
through old files, looking for pictures and memorabilia having to do with the
Maurice Carter story. All of this is in preparation for a staged reading
of the drama JUSTICE FOR MAURICE HENRY CARTER, written by award-winning
playwrights Alicia Payne and Donald Molnar.
Below is one of the many pictures that Maurice and I
had taken when I would visit him in prison.
Maurice died in 2004, exactly three months after his
release from prison. He served 29 years for a crime he did not
commit. Since that time, memories have been fading, also.
But they're at the forefront now, as we plan for two
performances of the staged readings---February 22 and 23 in Gezon Auditorium, on
the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids.
The programs are free to the public, as a part of Black
History Month, but the folks at Calvin Theatre Company are urging you to
come early. The performances will begin promptly at 7:30 PM.
I'm hoping that some of the key players in the case will
join me and Calvin staff for a panel discussion after each
And I'm hoping that you can be there...not to see what I
did, or what other volunteers did, but to see how the system can fail, and
how it placed a kind, gentle man behind bars for half of his life for something he didn't do.
I hope to see you. Tell others.
Behind bars - Can't get in the gym
February 7, 2013
Take a bunch of Michigan prisoners who have only a very limited time to get into the gymnasium to work out, and add a corrections officer who has a reputation of disrespecting and provoking inmates every day, and here's what you get:
"As we arrived at the gym at 7:30, the area was still locked. I looked for the CO...he was sitting in his office eating popcorn. I asked if he would unlock the gate. I couldn't hear his reply, but when he didn't show up other inmates showed up. Someone else asked him, and he said, 'When I'm done eating my popcorn I'll open it.' He sat there for a few more minutes. When he got up and walked to the gate, he said no one was going to get in there until he inventoried the whole weight pit. Surely he had the opportunity to do that before we got there. He purposely took his time, while people were lining up to get in. As he finished, he said no one could enter until he walked out...and then he took an intentionally long time to walk out. And they wonder why inmates get angry with these people."
Advice from behind bars
February 6, 2013
Advice to HFP from one of our friends in the women's facility:
"Continue to plant those seeds for our boss, Jesus. Best one in the world to work for."
February 5, 2013
Local story on stage
Doug Tjapkes chose to help an indigent prisoner to prove his innocence,
he had no idea that in the years to follow, the story would evolve into
an international cause celebre.
Carter, of Gary, Indiana, had already spent 20 years in the Michigan
prison system, all the while protesting that he had been wrongly
convicted in Berrien County. He was accused of shooting and injuring an
off-duty police officer in what may have been a hold-up attempt.
Arrested on the faulty testimony of a jail-house snitch, Carter was
convicted of assault with intent to commit murder by an all-white jury,
based solely on conflicting eye-witness testimony. He was sentenced to
life in prison.
unlikely pair plodded along unnoticed for the first several years, but
their dogged determination began to pay off. Innocence organizations
from Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Toronto eventually bought in, and
the case took on an even higher profile when internationally known
welter-weight champion Rubin Hurricane Carter entered the ring.
story has been captured in a compelling stage drama by award-winning
Toronto playwrights Alicia Payne and Donald Molnar, and a staged reading
will be presented in Grand Rapids in observance of Black History Month.
JUSTICE FOR MAURICE HENRY CARTER, directed by Debra L. Freeberg, has
been scheduled for February 22 and 23, 7:30 PM, in Gezon Auditorium on
the campus of Calvin College. It is being sponsored by the Calvin
Theatre Department, in conjunction with the Calvin Office for
The staged reading is free to the general public.
each performance, a panel discussion will be held featuring some of the
key players in the Maurice Carter case, including: Keith Findley,
Co-Director of the University of Wisconsin Innocence Project; David
Protess, Director of the Chicago Innocence Project; Hon. Gary Giguere,
Kalamazoo County Circuit Judge; Pat Shellenbarger, former Grand Rapids
Press writer; and Tjapkes.
The actors will be joined by a gospel choir in the nightly production.
Behind bars - Dental issues
February 5, 2013
"I have three broken teeth. I got my teeth filled a couple months ago, and every last filling came out within 2 weeks. I filed a grievance. The dental doctor called me out, put filler in 3 teeth, did not clean them pre/post surgery. He also fused 4 teeth together, and said that if the fuse didn't work I would be called back another time."
Starting the week with Desmond Tutu
February 4, 2013
“Frequently people think compassion and love are merely sentimental. No! They are very demanding. If you are going to be compassionate, be prepared for action.“
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
February 3, 2013
"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
Psalm 34:18 (NIV)
Behind bars - Violence spreads
February 1, 2013
New information at the HFP desk from Carson City:
"Violence is absolutely out of control. They seem to be putting the wrong level of prisoners here into Level One, where they gang up and start violence all over the place. Very dangerous and terrifying these days."
"The young kid across the hall from me was nearly beaten to death by his cellie. The guy jammed the door locks so the guards couldn't get in to stop him. It took them about a half hour of pounding with a sledge hammer and pry bar to finally get into the room. Blood everywhere. The door and door frame cannot be repaired. They'll have to rebuild the iron frame and door and locking system. The guy was actually trying to kill him. He wouldn't stop stomping him and there was nothing the guards could do. Apparently the victim is still in the hospital but I heard a rumor that he's going to pull through. He's only 21 years old."
Behind bars - The beat goes on
January 31, 2013
A later report from one of the UP prisons:
"Seems there was a fight-stabbing that lasted about 5 minutes yesterday afternoon before the guards woke up. It's once again gang-related, with 20-30 inmates on each side ready to jump in while this was going on, blocking the fighting/stabbing. Word is that it's unfinished business from another prison. I'm hearing that there will be paybacks again. How all this is going to end I don't know. I wasn't in the yard when it happened...I don't like to go to the yard because of the bad vibes and various groups of inmate gang members. It's the same feeling I get trying to use the rest room. How all this is going to end I don't know. I do know that I'm too old for this crap and just want to be left alone."
Behind bars - Oldtimers vs. violence
January 30, 2013
"Recently the warden said no to my suggestion of having even half a housing unit for inmates age 40 and over. You have no idea what it is like, forced to live with the gang bangers and the violence every day, for those of us in our 50s, 60s and even 70s. For years the MDOC had no one die. Now it's becoming a common thing."
Behind bars - Hearing issues
January 29, 2013
"I have been denied hearing aids by MDOC health care professionals. I have worn hearing aids all my life and now I am being told by the medical staff here that they would be of no use to me! How can they contradict the medical staff that I have had all my life?
"The hearing impaired here need interpreters for our religious services. Although the chaplain has said that he would meet with me to resolve this issue, this has not happened, and it has been years.
"The hearing impaired telephone system is also outdated.
"Just because there are not many hearing impaired inmates does not mean we should be discriminated against."
Starting the new week with Longfellow
January 28, 2013
"The life of a man consists not in seeing visions and in dreaming dreams, but in active charity and in willing service."
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
January 27, 2013
"...encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone."
I Thessalonians 5:14
January 26, 2013
HFP President Doug Tjapkes will be the guest speaker at an evening program tomorrow, Sunday, the 27th, at Plymouth Heights Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids.
This will mark the beginning of a monthly series of presentations scheduled by the church's Social Justice Committee.
Doug's topic: The Buck Stops Here.
The program begins at 5:30 PM, and will include a time for questions and answers.
All within driving distance are invited.
Behind bars - Late Holiday greetings
January 25, 2013
Somehow, a Christmas greeting to HFP got delayed. It just arrived from Peter, in Salinas Valley State Prison in California:
"Though it is early night here, I look through a very narrow window, and in the darkness---nobody is there. And while I'm standing in front of the window, looking at the hill in the darkness, I think about those places I used to live, and hope one day all this will end, and I will leave to places close by and far away, and I will see people. Haven't seen them for a long time again. Remembering you in this special season, and wishing you and your family Merry Christmas and Happy New Year."
Behind bars - Gang violence
January 23, 2013
"The gangs seem to run this prison. They do whatever they want. People get stabbed here every day. Every day! Not just once in a while. Every day you see fresh blood on the walkways. It's crazy. I've never had to deal with these kind of people before. The gang situation is out of control. After being squeezed out of almost $50 worth of store goods, I went to the guards for protection, so guess what. I've done nothing to deserve this, but I'm sitting in the hole. These gang people are out there laughing it up, going to the yard, being loose to do whatever they want."
Sick and Behind bars
January 22, 2013
"I'm wondering how you can help.
There is a lady in the infirmary who has suffered a heart attack and loss of
memory from her dialysis. She's in bad shape. She has no help on the
outside. She used to be a tutor at the school...now she can't do nothing
or remember anything. I know we deserve to pay for what we done, but in
some cases this place is a death sentence
A personal invitation
January 21, 2013
If you live in western Michigan, please consider making a short drive to
Hudsonville Thursday evening the 24th. I'm going to be joined by my
friends John Mulder, Lee Ingersoll, Cal Olson and David Mulder---all
wonderful musicians. Together we're going to go non-stop for two hours,
7-9 PM, playing some of your favorite old gospel tunes. All four of
these guys are singers, and we'll be playing such instruments as guitar,
ukulele, cornet, flugel horn, keyboard, djembe, bass, and whistles.
Put it all together and it's a fresh, new treatment of delightful, old
hymns. This is going to happen at a coffee house called Mocha-n-Music,
located at 5211 Cherry Avenue. It's being presented with no cover
charge as a fundraiser, and we're hoping for contributions. We'll have
copies of our album SWEET FREEDOM on hand so you'll even be able to take
the music home with you. I'll hope to see you Thursday.
Starting the week on MLK Day
January 21, 2013
"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Behind bars - Missed details, missed Christmas
January 18, 2013
"I wanted to let you know that after all the work you did to get the holiday visits in Michigan prisons, here at Kinross no memorandum was placed up in the housing units letting anyone know this. No memo saying, "Hey guys, in case you did not know, there will be a special visiting day allowed." Nothing. This prison is a sad excuse for a correctional facility...corruptional facility is more like it."
January 17, 2013
Emotional pleas for help hit the HFP desk. See Doug's latest blog entry: http://humanityforprisoners.blogspot.com/
Behind bars - Violence continues in the U.P.
January 16, 2013
"Violence is very bad here, mainly gang b.s. They keep transferring in more and more of them. This means there are more and more at the same prison, with fewer and fewer inmates to prey upon. Just a couple of days ago an inmate was taken to the hospital after being attacked. Nearly every day there are fights, stabbings, assaults and even rapes. The powers-to-be don't seem to care as long as it's not the guards who are injured. There are many gang members extorting inmates, especially those in for CSC. The gang problem has gotten out of hand.
"At the prison next door. there were 2 riots over the summer, 40-50 inmates going at each other. Prisoners are being threatened and attacked on a daily basis as well.
"And here's an update...3 more inmates from my housing unit were just taken to seg...fighting, 2 on 1."
Even when no longer Behind Bars
January 15, 2013
"My son was mistakenly arrested Sunday night at our home and taken to jail. It was because of a computer glitch or error by the parole agent, and then by the call center, and no one was looking into the issue. It was shocking to have this happen. Thankfully, my son's new medication helped him, and he remained calm (more calm than me). We knew clearly he had not violated parole. They could not tell us what he had violated, could show us no papers, nor had they had any discussion with his agent. She was totally unaware. I was able to contact the agent and plead my case as to why he should not have to sit in jail until morning, due to the mistakes of others and non-communication between them. She called me back a half hour later and got him released. He was in 3-4 hours. I was so concerned, because he struggles with some issues, and the last time he went to jail he had a breakdown and went back to prison. This really woke me up to the problem! The Governor and the Director of the MDOC continue to say that the mentally ill do not belong in jails or prisons, yet see how quickly we are hauling them off to there? This is unacceptable!"
Starting the week with Albert Schweitzer
January 14, 2013
"Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate." - Albert Schweitzer
January 13, 2013
"You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry"
Psalm 10:17 (NIV)
Lois DeMott to speak at upcoming event
January 12, 2013
From our friends at Citizens for Prison Reform
Dear Loved Ones,
Our own Lois DeMott will be speaking at the closing
event of "A Timeline of an Execution Night" on January 31st.
To see the flyer, click HERE
as you may be
interested in attending the three night event.
Citizens for Prison
"Our lives begin to end the day we become
silent about things that matter"
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice
Tax refunds coming
January 11, 2013
When those welcome tax refund checks arrive in the mail, we simply ask that you remember the mission of HFP. Just a tiny slice from each tax refund check can make a huge impact on the lives of prisoners. Thanks for thinking of us this month. All donations are tax exempt, of course, and we now have simple ways for you to contribute on-line: http://humanityforprisoners.org/Donate.html
Behind bars - The sounds of prison
January 10, 2013
"There are those of us who struggle daily, mentally, over the things we see...and the sounds. Hearing a man being stabbed is a horrible sound. Then there's the sounds of someone being beaten in a cell next to you, and you have to endure all of that thudding and banging, the grunting and yelling. We know that as a prisoner we must endure these things and not say anything, and if we do we become victims. To try and sleep after hearing these kinds of sounds, to lay down and try and rest after your adrenaline has flooded your body, it's crazy."
Behind bars - Wanting to see dying wife
January 9, 2013
Just how important is family to the Michigan prisoner? Apparently not important enough to enable visits with an inmate and his dying wife of 32 years. Read Doug's blog entry today: http://humanityforprisoners.blogspot.com/
January 9, 2013
The list of year-end donors to HFP included three
One church had designated HFP as recipient of its
One church belongs to the 100 club, providing a gift of
$40 a month.
One church gives HFP two special offerings per
It fits, because this is what the church must be
about: showing compassion to prisoners.
At the beginning of this new year, we'd like to ask you to
contact the deacons and/or finance committee of your church.
Think how HFP would be benefit if the church of every partner would take one
collection a year for prison work.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
It's Pickin' and Grinnin' Time!
January 8, 2013
That's right, two HFP fund-raisers scheduled for 2013, and the first is coming up this month.
Once again John Mulder and Doug Tjapkes will be joined by Lee Ingersoll, Cal Olson and David Mulder, to present a solid two hours of gospel music favorites. The date: Thursday, January 24. The location: MOCHA-N-MUSIC, a great coffee shop located at 5211 Cherry Avenue in Hudsonville, Michigan. Contributions to HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS expected. For HFP friends in western Michigan---please place this information in your church bulletin.
Starting the week with Robert Louis Stevenson
January 7, 2013
“To be rich in admiration and free from envy, to rejoice greatly in the good of others, to love with such generosity of heart that your love is still a dear possession in absence or unkindness - these are the gifts which money cannot buy.”
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)
January 6, 2013
"When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers."
Proverbs 21:15 (NIV)
Behind bars - No heat for winter
January 4, 2013
The on-going saga of chilly temperatures in some units of the women's prison in Michigan:
"The heat guy comes in our unit this morning and says he's going to check the heat. He flipped some switch and within an hour we started to have three times more cold air return blowing into our rooms. Can't even keep the door closed. Within one hour your hands are like ice. Now the force of this cold air return is unbelievable. If this guy wants these blowers on so high, why doesn't he just control it to the places where we don't have to sleep? Don't know what kind of games they are playing. Men just don't understand that women's body temperatures are different. We will all layer up once again in many clothing items."
One day later:
"Today I mentioned to an officer, "What the heck is wrong with that heat guy...did someone make him angry or something?" I informed her how much more cold air pressure is coming out of my vent. The story goes now that they are working on the boiler. We are supposed to have two boilers, and we function only on one 99% of the time. Who knows what will happen next?"
Behind bars - Solitaire
January 3, 2013
Another poem by our friend Troy Chapman
He walks around in tiny steps
As if, once the leg shackles hobbled him
He stayed hobbled in his mind
He's old, with ragged teeth
And distant, shell-shocked look
I checked his prison number
It's old too, fifty years at least
I asked his cell mate
If he's been in since it came out
The man said yeah, shook his head
He shuffles to the day room
Sits and methodically spreads the cards
Slowly begins turning them
I've seen him leaning sideways on his bunk
Playing there too
He hung a picture of Jesus
On the wall of his cell when he moved in
It's one one of the old, sad ones
It watches him as he shuffles himself
In and out of the cell
And looks down sadly over him
Shuffling and flipping cards
In this slow game
On the death penalty
January 2, 2013