Friday, May 29, 2009

A nice way to end the week!

Former Michigan Governor William Milliken:
I am so supportive of your program. I completely believe in what you are doing!


Barbara S. Sampson, Chair, Michigan Parole & Commutation Board:
Best wishes to you for achievement and fulfillment in your ongoing work with prisoners!


Tim Moore, Program Coordinator, Ionia Maximum Correctional Facility:
The prisoners have invited you to be a guest speaker at an assembly here!

"Preach the gospel everyday. Use words if necessary," said St. Francis of Assisi. We'll keep on keepin' on, with your help!


HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS
20 W. Muskegon Avenue
Muskegon, MI 49440

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A letter from Marcia Tjapkes

It was Sunday morning, I was late for church, the Hour of Power was on the TV screen, and Bill Hybels, of Willow Creek Church, was just starting to speak. He was talking about Moses, and God’s instructions to him for helping the hurting Israelites.

Now listen to me very closely. If you get nothing else from what I say in this service, please get this. I think what’s really happening is that God is saying to Moses, “What you saw...in…physical violence that made you so unbelievably frustrated and angry, what you saw on earth, I saw all of that in heaven, I heard that suffering, I heard the cries and I can’t stand it in heaven, either. I’m stirred in my spirit and I’m going to intervene and clean up this mess on planet earth, but I’m going to use you to do it, in part, because I see passion in your life. I see your emotion. I see someone who can’t stand idly by when his people are being beaten and oppressed. I see your capacity for activism and I’ve been looking for someone like you who has an internal firestorm that gets ignited in you about the same time it gets ignited in heaven. And I’m going to take your frustration that I share in heaven and put my power into that. I’m going to use you in a very significant way.”

And I thought, “That’s my Douger!”

I was late for church!

Marcia


Your help is critically needed at month's end to maintain this internal firestorm! Please!


HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS
20 W. Muskegon Avenue
Muskegon, MI 49440

Friday, May 22, 2009

Finale to the Mevludin Hidanovic case

Doug,

I have resigned from my work today. My last day will be June 5th. I am leaving for Bosnia June 6th. I hope we can keep in touch. I thank you for everything.

Chanda


Thanks to so many HFP partners for the prayers and support of this family, shattered by a wrongful conviction. Heartbreaking!

doug

List of those NOT free

On this Memorial Day weekend, let me begin a list of those persons who are NOT free. Please add your own contributions to keep the list going!

Persons NOT free this weekend:

-the wrongly convicted who are in prison
-innocent prisoners who are refused parole for failing to show remorse
-the wrongly convicted who have been freed, but not accepted by the public
-the mentally ill in prison
-juveniles in an adult prison system
-dying prisoners who are not allowed to be with family for their final days
-well-meaning citizens who believe the system works, and all prisoners belong there

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Give thanks!

I'm blessed to be working with some of the prisoners we have helped to find freedom.

In one of my most recent discussions, a newly released citizen said to me: The first night I turned out all the lights in my apartment. This was the first time in 11 years that I was alone, that it was silent, and that I was in the dark!

Today join me in remembering the thousands of people who cannot enjoy those precious gifts. Never take them for granted! There but for the grace of God....

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

YOU can make a difference!

As most of you know, a very large amount of our financial support is at the grass-roots level. We receive numerous gifts of $1, $5, $10, $20, etc. Many gifts come from those who are touched by our services, especially families of prisoners. People experienced in charitable contributions are amazed at the number of gifts we receive in response to our regular monthly mailer…far higher than the average! But, these are not normal times, and again this month we're getting farther and farther behind.

I would like to ask a special favor only from those whose giving ability has not been seriously affected by the economy. I would like 4 or 5 of our most loyal supporters, who have the means, to offer matching contributions to the end of May. If we have 5 persons who would be willing to match all of these small gifts that we receive, up to a given number, such as $1,000 (we promise it won’t go over that!), we could be in the black by the 31st! YOU PICK THE AMOUNT YOU WILL MATCH.

Send us a private email message. Everything will remain confidential. We’ll keep an accurate tab on all gifts, and will notify each person who pledges when the limit is reached.

Will you help?

Thanks for being there for us!

Doug


I absolutely believe in the power of tithing and giving back. My own experience about all the blessings I've had in my life is that the more I give away, the more that comes back. That is the way life works, and that is the way energy works.
Ken Blanchard

On DOUGBOARDING!

As a retired newsman, I have always believed that people should hear opinions from both sides of an issue.

Recently the Grand Haven Tribune published this article as a letter to the editor:

MDOC TORTURE: PAROLEBOARDING
by Doug Tjapkes


Here’s how it works.

The Michigan Parole and Commutation Board must conduct a public hearing for many prisoners being considered for parole or commutation. These public hearings are held at several prisons around the state. Prior to the hearings, judges, prosecutors and victims of the alleged crime are all invited to express their opinions.

The public hearing is conducted by a member of the Parole Board, and other members may be present. In addition, a delegate from the Michigan Attorney General’s office is there to represent the victims and the people of the state. All are seated behind a long table.

The prisoner is there in person, and must appear on the other side of the table, sitting in a chair, wheelchair, or resting on a gurney.

Persons supporting or opposing the parole or commutation are invited to attend, and are given an opportunity to comment before the end of the session, which means there is an audience.

As the public hearing gets underway, the attorney from the AG’s office is invited to question the prisoner. That’s when the torture begins! He has all the files from a case that may be 30 years old, while the prisoner has nothing but his/her memory. He asks questions about the smallest details, he berates, he shouts. The prisoner is often frightened, often cannot remember that far back, but worst of all, has no advocate or legal representative. The prisoner is alone!

Following interrogation by the Attorney General’s rep (which can take hours), members of the Parole Board are invited to ask questions. Again, they have the files. The prisoner has nothing to prompt memory recall. And the prisoner has no advocate or legal representative.

Consider now that the prisoner may have been awakened very early in the morning to travel to the site of the hearing. Now hear this: after the public hearing begins, there is no break! The meeting can run from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Time means nothing. Torture. Paroleboarding!

Humanity for Prisoners makes two suggestions to the new Michigan board:

1,Allow the prisoner to have legal counsel, to respond to questions and statements by the AG’s representative, and to also have case documents on hand for reference. and

2, As in all legitimate courtrooms, call a recess if the meeting runs long, so that everyone---panelists, prisoner, and audience members---may get food and use the restrooms.

Certainly these requests cannot be considered unfair. To the contrary, a positive response would demonstrate that the state can be humane, even when dealing with prisoners.

If nothing changes, the torture will continue. We call it Paroleboarding.


Yesterday, May 18, 2009, the following letter was published in the same newspaper, under the title: MISPLACED SYMPATHIES

As we are all aware by now, the issues of torture, and particularly water boarding, have been occupying the Congress and the national media for some time.

Even as Speaker Pelosi subjects a nationwide audience to the spectacle of her torturously bending her body into a pretzel-like form to explain her failure to object after being briefed about water boarding, the phenomenon has hit close to home here in Grand Haven. With seeming increasing frequency, your readers have been subjected to gratuitous "Doug Boarding," a form of abuse in which our oxygen is cut off by cascading gushes of prisoner adulation from a well-meaning soldier of misplaced sympathies.

Many members of our Armed Forces have been subjected to fear of drowning in water while undergoing SERE (Survival, Evasioni, Resistance and Escape) training, which apparently is torture only if used on terrorists, but none to my knowledge have been subjected to fear of drowning in gluey compassion, as your readers have. For the love of Pete, please stop this abuse, which is torturous even if periodic---I beg you!

Chuck Tyler
Grand Haven

fyi

Doug Tjapkes, President (and soldier of misplaced sympathies)
HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS
20 W. Muskegon Avenue
Muskegon, MI 49440

Friday, May 15, 2009

Continuing to extend God's love,

thanks to you, and your urgently needed prayers and support!

It's people like you who provide light and hope in a time when they're needed most. What you do for those behind bars is admirable, noble, and one of the most heart-warming and sincere gestures any fellow being could perform. You are indeed a precious treasure to those of us who need a voice, yet cannot be heard from behind these prison walls!

Barbara Bush:
Giving frees us from the familiar territory of our own needs by opening our mind to the unexplained worlds occupied by the needs of others.


HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS
20 W. Muskegon Ave.
Muskegon, MI 49440

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Judge visiting prisoner: a fantasy

I made a prison visit yesterday. I believe God calls me to do that, and I believe that your financial support and prayers affirm my action. Yesterday was unique because the prisoner was 15 years of age, with the mind of a 9 year old. He was arrested at age 13 for being involved in sexual activity with a 6 year old cousin, charged by an aggressive prosecutor, and sentenced to 9 to 15 years in prison by a judge who must have thought this child would be a threat to society. What other reason could there be? He certainly cannot get appropriate treatment for mental illness there; he cannot be rehabilitated there.

My mind was busy during the six hours spent on the highway. I wondered what it would be like if I could take that very judge to the prison to visit the boy whom he had sentenced.


Thank you, Your Honor, for agreeing to make a prison visit with me. With grand-children of your own, this should be meaningful. I'd like you to meet this young man. You chose to send him to prison, even though his mind was only that of about a 6-year-old at the time of the activity that you and the police and the prosecutor called a crime.

We arrived at 2:15 PM, and it's now 3:30. I know your time is valuable, but there are several possible reasons for the delay of our visit: 1, the prison system may not have the same concern for your time constraints; 2, maybe the young man couldn't find his shoes; and 3, perhaps he was watching a good TV show…you know how little kids can be.

Look at him as he walks in, sir. His great big black shoes make him walk like a clown. When asked about the problem, he shrugs and says the shoes and some shirts were missing after he was transferred into segregation. This is what they gave him for the moment. "Now I have to buy new ones."

And remember how grandkids always seem hungry, Judge? Our $10 won’t cover it today! We continue to deposit quarters as the lad devours two Lunchables, a large A&W root beer, and three Payday candy bars! He prefers that to the fish dinner he is scheduled to receive, which he labels “awful!”

But let's listen to his words, Your Honor. It shouldn’t be a surprise that his behavior sometimes doesn’t meet prison requirements, so for 13 more days he must remain in his cell for all but two hours a day, getting out only for medicine and meals. He shows us a scar on his arm caused, he says, by the jab of a ball-point pen of a guard.

How did it feel to be admitted at Jackson at the age of 14? "I was scared to death! I thought I would have to spend my whole sentence there. Some prisoner saw me in my cell, and shouted, 'Hi Peaches.' I hated it!"

Has he seen unpleasant situations in prison? "You don't know the half of it!”

Does he see a therapist? No.

Has his appellate attorney contacted him? No.

Does he get visits? About once every two months. His mom doesn’t come. His grandmother, wheel-chair-bound, is always welcome, but she lives out-of-state.

What are we doing here? Punishing? Treating the mentally ill? Making an example so as to prevent similar incidents?

Is this the best solution to this problem, Grandfather Judge? How would you feel if this child was a member of your family?

Luke 17:2 It would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around your neck than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

He's a winner!

Spencer Hassevoort, 11, son of Mr. and Mrs. Scott Hassevoort of Spring Lake, was awarded a plaque by HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS for assisting the prisoner advocacy agency in fund raising this past winter. It wasn’t the only award the young Hassevoort received Saturday night, at the annual awards banquet of BEVRA (Big Extreme Vintage Racing Association).

The association presents oval snowmobile racing on Tamarack Lake at Lakeview, Michigan, most Saturday afternoons during snowmobile weather. All of the other drivers are adults, but they have learned to give a lot of respect to the 11-year-old driver. He races in two events each Saturday with his 1978 Yamaha 300 Enticer. This past season, he won first or second place in every event!

Spencer and his father Scott, who also races and who also serves as his son’s mechanic, gave HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS the opportunity to accept pledges for each of his races from would-be contributors. HFP President Doug Tjapkes, in presenting the award Saturday night, said the youngster’s racing skills brought in about $2,000 in tax-free contributions to the local area charity!

Winning is nothing new for the youth. Last year he took home six first-place trophies!

The banquet was held Saturday, May 9, at McKenna’s Village Restaurant in Lakeview.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Pray for the mom of a prisoner

When I sit in prison waiting rooms, hoping to visit an inmate, I am regularly touched by the pain I see in the eyes of moms there to see their offspring.

This Sunday, as you pay tribute to your own precious mother, remember that we have some 50,000 people in prison right here in Michigan, and many of them still have living mothers. Say a prayer for moms of prisoners.

A mother's love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path."-- Agatha Christie

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Who's to blame?

Doug Tjapkes, HFP President, was invited to participate in an awards ceremony at the Michigan Capitol today honoring Lois DeMott, who fought for the past year to release her mentally-challenged juvenile son from the Michigan Prison System. HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS participated in that case. Doug’s comments:

If I were to be arrested, charged with a crime, and brought to court, the documents would have these words on the top: Plaintiff, the People of the State of Michigan. Defendant, Douglas J. Tjapkes.

Think about that: They’re talking about you and me! We are the people of the State of Michigan!

If that’s the case, then it’s time that we started assuming some of the blame for the very conditions that we condemn.

Let’s start at the bottom of the ladder.

When juveniles are arrested on questionable charges, we blame the police. Who hires the cops? The Chief of Police. Who appoints the Chief of police? Our elected officials. If it’s a county sheriff’s department, we elect the sheriff. If it’s the Michigan State Police, we elect state representatives, state senators, and the governor. I submit that we, the people of Michigan, are to blame!

If a warrant is authorized, containing charges that a mentally challenged youngster may not even understand, we blame the county prosecutor. How do you think that prosecutor gets into public office? The prosecutor is not appointed in the state of Michigan…the prosecutor is elected by us…the people of the State of Michigan. WE are to blame!

When a cold-hearted and calloused judge sentences a juvenile to 9 to 15 years in prison, we say the judge is no good, and shouldn’t be on the bench. Back to my point: how did he get there? He or she was elected, and we, the people of the State of Michigan, put that judge in office and allowed that judge to stay there! We are to blame!

When the State of Michigan shuts down mental institutions and juvenile detention facilities, we find all kinds of people to blame: Those in charge of care for the mentally ill, the Michigan Department of Corrections, the State Attorney General, all the way on to the top---Governor Jennifer Granholm. We cannott keep foisting the blame onto someone else…some other agency, some other person. The buck stops here: WE are the People of the State of Michigan!

And so, in conclusion, Kevin DeMott, I apologize to you for all that you had to endure for more than a year…I apologize on behalf of the People of the State of Michigan, and I accept my share of the blame. It should not have happened!

And to Lois DeMott, wonderful warrior for your son, a fighter who never, ever gave up…never even backed up an inch in your quest for justice and humanity, I have this to say: “Isn’t it a shame that we have to give an award to a mother for doing something she never should have had to do in the first place…for doing something simply because we, the People of the State of Michigan, fell short?"

Your case is a wake-up call to the People of the State of Michigan.

-When we take the time to find out where our local, state and national leaders stand on the issues that are important to us---

-When we ignore political party affiliation, and vote our conscience---

In other words, when we step up to the plate and accept full responsibility for this and many other unacceptable situations in the judicial and corrections categories, then this episode will not have been in vain!

I conclude with a statement by Larry Hirst, Chaplain of the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society, which perhaps best explains why my organization stands side-by-side with Lois DeMott and others to continue the fight:

You see, the mentally ill are people, they have bodies and souls, they have hopes and dreams, they are every bit as precious to God as anyone else. So what we can do is change our attitudes toward them. What we can do is choose not to discriminate against their illness. What we can do is offer the same compassion to those who suffer from a mental illness as we do to those who suffer from a physical illness.

May God help us to do just that!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Mother's Day gift that keeps giving!

There's a meaningful way that you can show love to mothers other than your own.

From our files, listen to the plight of these moms. We find a mom who

Fears for her son’s safety in prison
Mourns the loss of her son before he could be released
Is begging the PB to free her son before he dies
Worries about a son claiming innocence as he faces a Parole Board interview
Fights for her own freedom, after being wrongly imprisoned in the death of a daughter
Doesn’t know how to free a mentally ill juvenile son in an adult prison system
Is frightened because her son suffering bi-polar disorder has never been in prison before
Worries because her imprisoned son is threatening suicide
Cries because her son is crippled, and prison doctors don’t seem to want to help.

And the list goes on.

This Mother’s Day, you can make a contribution to HFP in honor of your mother. We’ll send your mom a letter of acknowledgement, saying that your gift will have special meaning to mothers of prisoners.

Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs in my field, since the payment is pure love. ~Mildred B. Vermont

HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS
20 W. Muskegon Avenue
Muskegon, MI 49440

Monday, May 4, 2009

MDOC form of torture: PAROLEBOARDING!

Here’s how it works.

The Michigan Parole and Commutation Board must conduct a public hearing for many prisoners being considered for parole or commutation. These public hearings are held at several prisons around the state. Prior to the hearings, judges, prosecutors and victims of the alleged crime are all invited to express their opinions.

The public hearing is conducted by a member of the Parole Board, and other members may be present. In addition, a delegate from the Michigan Attorney General’s office is there to represent the victims and the people of the state. All are seated behind a long table.

The prisoner is there in person, and must appear on the other side of the table, sitting in a chair, wheelchair, or resting on a gurney.

Persons supporting or opposing the parole or commutation are invited to attend, and are given an opportunity to comment before the end of the session, which means there is an audience.

As the public hearing gets underway, the attorney from the AG’s office is invited to question the prisoner. That’s when the torture begins! He has all the files from a case that may be 30 years old, while the prisoner has nothing but his/her memory. He asks questions about the smallest details, he berates, he shouts. The prisoner is often frightened, often cannot remember that far back, but worst of all, has no advocate or legal representative. The prisoner is alone!

Following interrogation by the Attorney General’s rep (which can take hours), members of the Parole Board are invited to ask questions. Again, they have the files. The prisoner has nothing to prompt memory recall. And the prisoner has no advocate or legal representative.

Consider now that the prisoner may have been awakened very early in the morning to travel to the site of the hearing. Now hear this: after the public hearing begins, there is no break! The meeting can run from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Time means nothing. Torture. Paroleboarding!

Humanity for Prisoners makes two suggestions to the new Michigan board:

-Allow the prisoner to have legal counsel, to respond to questions and statements by the AG’s representative, and to also have case documents on hand for reference.

-As in all legitimate courtrooms, call a recess if the meeting runs long, so that everyone---panelists, prisoner, and audience members---may get food and use the restrooms.

Certainly these requests cannot be considered unfair. To the contrary, a positive response would demonstrate that the state can be humane, even when dealing with prisoners.

If nothing changes, the torture will continue. We call it Paroleboarding.