Friday, January 29, 2010

A warm story to end a cold week!

FROM AN INDIGENT, FEMALE PRISONER WHOSE FAMILY LIVES IN THE INNER CITY:
I wish I was home with my child, Doug. I want to see my little girl so bad it hurts. As of February 2nd it will make a year I have not seen my baby. I don't know how tall she got, how big she got. Doug, do you know of any kind of group that helps bring family members to prison? Ms. C

FROM A WOMAN WHO LIVES IN A COMFORTABLE NEIGHBORHOOD:
We would be happy to help with this. My husband is retired and would be glad to drive to their city (150 miles one way!) and take them (grandparents and child) to the prison. They are welcome to stay the night with us if they would feel OK doing that! Ms. B

Yes, miracles continue to unfold in this office, day after day! Can we claim any credit? Not a lick. God does the planning! You help pay the bills! Can you imagine the excitement and the gratitude as we connect the dots of this little episode?

Your crooked stick,

Doug Tjapkes
HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS
P.O. Box 687
Grand Haven, MI 49417

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Taking pledges for a winner!

All right, boys and girls...it's snowmobile racing time again, that fun-time to watch our favorite ace on the oval track, hoping to win dollars for HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS!

Spencer Hassevoort, age 12, will be participate in three events this coming Saturday, January 30, in the BEVRA sanctioned vintage snowmobile races (for adults!) at Lakeview, Michigan.

How much will you pledge per race, if he wins first, second or third place? Will you double the pledge if he wins FIRST? Email your pledge to me, after reading last night's feature, written by the Trib's fine Sports Editor Matt DeYoung. All contributions are tax exempt!


www.grandhaventribune.com/liveique/b_sports.bsp

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Some days you win!

Mr. T, a Latino prisoner who claims his wife must have fallen off the earth, who cannot find his grown kids, and who resides in the Michigan Prison System, was caught in recent transfers due to the closing of a prison. He went to Carson City, then he went to Adrian, then he was returned to Carson City, and finally he ended up in Coldwater. Through all of this his belongings were lost: a duffel bag containing all his possessions. But the most important thing in that duffel bag was his legal work. For the past year he had worked, by himself, on a motion for a new trial because he had no money. That motion was ready to be filed in January, along with all supporting documents. Then all were lost. Prison officials advised that their search came up empty. They were sorry.

When he called HFP, he explained that he had no one. He has been a friend of ours for some months, and he said in exasperation: "You're all I have!"

We took that seriously, and utilizing the experience of a former MDOC employee, we found the duffel bag yesterday! It was resting peacefully in a prison storeroom. If he hasn't received it yet, Mr. T should get it today.

Upon learning the good news, he called our office, but the poor man had no money left on his telephone card. He just had time to get out the words: "I can't thank you enough!"

And so yesterday we didn't free someone from prison, we didn't get help for the mentally ill prisoner, but we did locate critically important legal papers for one of "the least of these." For HFP, it was a major victory!

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."-- Mother Teresa

Friday, January 22, 2010

The week ended well!

It's been a tough week, but this office was the target of a ray of sunshine late this afternoon!

Remember the Bible story of the ten lepers? Jesus healed all ten, but one came back to say "thank you."

Well, Cindy and I have been battling one unpleasant situation after another this week. Man's inhumanity to man is astonishing!

But an hour ago, I received a telephone call from a prisoner. All she wanted to do was say "thank you" for being at her side for a parole board interview. She had needed a friend. We were there. She has been behind bars for 20 years.

Just a few minutes ago, another telephone call, this one from a prisoner who was freed ten days ago. All he wanted to do was say "thank you!" We had been supporting him in his efforts before the Parole Board for the past couple of years. He had served 20 years behind bars.

His brothers and sisters prepared a meal of fried chicken for him, with chocolate cake for dessert: just about heaven!

Now he's enrolled in a community college, ready to make a new life for himself.

Two people who came back, just to say "thank you."

God is good!

A song about prisoners

I was worshiping with friends in a large Grand Rapids church last Sunday. The praise song wasn't familiar to me. Then these words popped up on the screen, and I thought: They're singing about prisoners!

There are no strangers
There are no outcasts
There are no orphans of God

From the song ORPHANS OF GOD
Joel Lindsey/Twila LaBar

Monday, January 18, 2010

He won!

If someone said that Spencer Hassevoort, 12, son of Mr. and Mrs. Scott Hassevoort, of Spring Lake, was a fund-raiser for HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS, it might raise a few eyebrows. But that’s not all about young Hassevoort that raises eyebrows. He races vintage snowmobiles, in an adult world, and he has a garage full of trophies!

Last year, he agreed to accept pledges on behalf of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS, a 501c3 advocacy agency based in Grand Haven. Hassevoort and his family attend the same church as HFP President Doug Tjapkes. In 2009 he raised nearly $2,000 for the organization, winning either first or second place every time he raced!

This year he repeated the offer. He races a 1978 Yamaha 300 Enticer on an oval track on Tamarack Lake near Lakeview, Michigan. The events are sponsored by Big Extreme Vintage Racing Association (BEVRA). The first races were held Saturday, January 19, and he participated in three categories: Stock A, Stock B, and Super Stock A. And he won big: Stock A, first place trophy; Stock B, second place; Super Stock A, first place trophy!

The next event is scheduled for Saturday, January 30. Everyone is welcome to submit pledges by calling the HFP office in Grand Haven, Michigan: 616.935.0075, or by sending an email to thedouger@chartermi.net.

Starting a new week with MLK!

What better way to start the week, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, than by using his famous words, written while in prison!

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963US black civil rights leader & clergyman (1929 - 1968)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Here's why we still need YOU!

From a prisoner who dares to speak up, give his name and ID# regardless of the fear of retribution:

Here's what I have seen here:

-I've seen COs (Corrections Officers) jumping an inmate for no reason.

-If you ain't heard, they had an inmate just die about two weeks ago right across from me. They state that he died in his sleep, but the things I've seen around here...I don't believe it!

-They have a prisoner that locks down the hall from me. They have him in his cell butt naked, without any blankets or mattress or clothes. He's eating his own human waste to have something to eat. The police talk about he's not getting this or that. They don't bring him out of his cell to shower.

-They jumped on a prisoner that locks next door to me about three days ago. They messed him up pretty bad. He states he thinks his nose is broken and that he's hurting all over. The nurses here haven't been to look at him since that happened.

-They have another prisoner that locks down the hall from me who who has been getting gassed and assaulted since he's been here. They are playing with his food, refusing to give him his proper trays, to make him lose his temper so that they could jump on him.

WE'LL JUMP INTO THE FRAY, BUT WE CANNOT DO IT WITHOUT YOU!

May God help us all.

Thoughts on Haiti

I have been in Haiti 3 times.

The first time was during the Papa Doc regime, with rifles pointed at us at various checkpoints, as I served as accompanist for two Christian singers.

The second time was in the 70s, when our singing group HIS MEN reached out to Haitians in many areas of the mainland, as well as on the island of LaGonave. We ministered in places were many others chose not to go.

The third time was a decade later, when I assisted a religious group on a film-making project.

The members of HIS MEN and their wives stayed in the Hotel Montana, which we are hearing so much about in the news. We walked and traveled and sang in many of the places you are seing as reports of the earthquake continue to unfold.

I loved the Haitians, and my heart broke every time I went into that country. How was it that I was privileged to live in such a beautiful area, while these people were born and raised in such horrid conditions, with so little hope for the future? And yet they made the best of it, and for the most part were a happy, loving people, who made us welcome and demonstrated warm hospitality!

And so, even though I serve as the president of a charitable organization that always needs funds to keep operating one more day, it would be completely inappropriate for me, our board, and our staff, to ask for gifts right now. Instead, we ask that you direct your thoughts and prayers toward Haiti, and give to the charity of your choice as your conscience demands.

Certainly those who include giving to charity as part of the home or business budget process realize that natural disasters demand immediate attention.

All we ask is that, in the big picture, you remember prisoners, because this is not an issue that arises from time to time...it is with us always. I visited a prisoner yesterday---an elderly, professional individual who has never been in trouble in his life---and incarceration for him was a shock just as devastating as experiencing a natural disaster. One prisoner on Texas death row said that when he arrived, a tsunami of emotions and thoughts were going through his mind. For thousands of prisoners, in a facility near you, incarceration has been a disaster in their lives, and the lives of their families.

In conclusion, I remind you that there are many, wonderful charities who steadily plod along, year in and year out, quietly and without major news coverage, helping people in need.

Just as you so graciously and generously remember us, keep them in mind, also.

May God bless all rescue efforts in Haiti, all who participate, and may God be near the hurting Haitian populace.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

There but for the grace of God....

Dear Doug:

I am not sure whether or not you remember me. I called you a while back to inquire about my friend D----, who wishes to file commutation papers and (prayerfully) sit before the parole board and by the grace of God walk out of prison in the near future. Then, just as soon as I was to read your book (SWEET FREEDOM) that you so graciously sent me, was given a very hard punch in the gut with a rather large dose of reality! Both of my sons were arrested on some charges that sent one to prison for four years, while the other is still awaiting his sentence. It was the day of their arrest that I also learned that they were both heroin addicts. I have meant to be in touch with you so many times over the last two and one half months, but unfortunately have allowed myself to be consumed by this. However, I am praising God and thanking Him that they were arrested and jailed; called the detective to thank him. (I lost a son in 2004 to suicide.) I was so grateful that God saw past their drugs and into their hearts, which they had given to Jesus as teens, and sent someone to rescue them from what could have possibly been their death. I would rather visit them via video and watch them led into a courtroom in shackles than to stand over their grave! Having said all this, I am just here to thank you for your faithfulness to all those who the world has thrown away, and to wish you and your family a blessed New Year!

Respectfully, In Him,

B

Spencer races for HFP again!

OK, Gang, it's time for our annual snowmobile fun!

Our champion fund raiser, Spencer Hassevoort, has reached the ripe old age of 12 now, he's added another 10 pounds, but he's still ready to take on the adult racers in the annual BEVRA (Big Extreme Vintage Racing Association) competition at Lakeview, Michigan.

Spencer has agreed to raise urgently needed funds for HFP again this year, after winning an armful of trophies against the big guys last year. There will be only four events, so we'll take them one at a time.

In each Saturday event, Spencer will participate in three oval races: Stock A, Stock B, and Super Stock.

Here's the fun way that you can demonstrate your support for this boy wonder, and at the same time contribute to HFP:

You pledge $____ per race, IF Spencer lands in the winning circle (1st, 2nd or 3rd place).

So if you pledge $20, and he ends up in the top three each time, you make a $60 tax-exempt contribution to HFP.

Here's another challenge: Will you double your pledge for every FIRST PLACE TROPHY he captures?

THERE ARE ONLY FOUR RACES: January 16, January 30, February 6 and February 20.

THE FIRST RACE IS THIS SATURDAY. YOU MAY START EMAILING YOUR PLEDGES NOW. I'LL FILL OUT THE PLEDGE FORMS, AND WE'LL GIVE YOU THE RESULTS ON MONDAY. LET THE PLEDGES BEGIN!

Doug

Monday, January 11, 2010

Free at last!

My friend Clark steps into the free world tomorrow. He'll be welcomed by family and friends. What an occasion! He has spent the past 20 years behind bars, and he's determined---with God's help---to start a new life.

I can't be there to welcome him...something I very much regret. The last time I drove to a prison for such an event, I was the privileged one to hold the front door open as she walked out. As we stood on the front driveway, in the cold, in freedom, we hugged.

At 9 tomorrow, say a prayer for Clark. Thank God for his new opportunity, and pray that he makes the most of it.

Experience this just once, and you'll see how it makes everything we do worth while!

HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS
P.O. Box 687
Grand Haven, MI 49417

Saturday, January 9, 2010

All in a week's work!

THE FIRST WEEK OF THE NEW YEAR

Sunday Tweak, review and pray over prepared comments for an important Parole Board interview tomorrow!

Monday Make long drive to Ypsilanti in treacherous conditions to be at the side of a woman who has spent 20 years in prison for a crime she did not commit, in a PB interview. HFP spoke on her behalf, God was there, and she and I wept!

Tuesday Catch up on pleas from prisoners, their families and friends---31 of them which arrived by mail, email and telephone!

Wednesday Work on four pages of constitutional issues raised by a dozen inmates on their way to freedom, now in a half-way house. Assistance and answers were provided thanks to our crack team of legal eagles who assist us below the radar!

Thursday AM Take immediate steps to deal with three serious reports of prison guard abuse, two of them involving mentally ill inmates. We work hard on these!

Thursday PM Despite severe winter weather, make a long-overdue prison visit to a New York businessman incarcerated because of trumped-up charges. He promises to dedicate the rest of his life to working with HFP upon his release!

Friday AM Work by remote control with contacts at the top and the bottom of the state to struggle with medical issues of a seriously ill prisoner, which could ultimately result in a request for a commutation of his sentence for medical reasons!

Friday PM Complete the day with an in-depth discussion with one of the most distinguished and loved leaders in Michigan history. At the conclusion of our conversation, he agreed to openly endorse HFP and appeal for funds to keep our agency alive and well!

Saturday Review 5 more requests for assistance, and receive another touching endorsement of HFP by a prominent Private Investigator!

May God bless the humble and feeble and imperfect efforts of this office, and may he bless your support as our partners!

HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS
P.O. Box 687
Grand Haven, MI 49417

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"Enough," I say. "Enough!"

I've already had my belly full of it for today! Messages to us from other prisoners or parolees...


From a Michigan half-way program for some being released:

Mr. L is diabetic, didn't get his mandatory 30-day supply of insulin upon his release, and ran out 12 days after arriving here. The state finally agreed to pay for 30 more days. He'll run out again by mid-month, and medical needs are getting ignored.

From a mid-Michigan prison:

Two mentally ill prisoners are being abused by guards: left naked in their cold cells because they are deemed a suicide risk, not even mattresses or blankets; denied food (guards claim the prisoners refused to take it); and using up to two cans of gas on these guys when the officers know they are mentally ill!

From a northern-Michigan prison:

A guard grabbed him by the scrotum, and when he lowered his arms he was thrown to the floor, handcuffed, and then had his head slammed against the cement, scarring his face. This prisoner, who has cerebral palsy, was then placed in the hole for two months.

...remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Hebrews 13:3

What a nice way to start the new year!

doug

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New year, old stories

And they're already stacked up on our desk:

My mentally ill grandson, age 15, is being sexually harassed by a prison guard. This is the second time: first a woman, now a man. Can someone help him?

My brother has terrible cholesterol problems, but the prison system refuses to treat him. He filed grievances, and that resulted in lost yard time for him. Can someone help him?

My friend is serving 10-40 because an ex-girlfriend persuaded her three children to tell stories about him. He never was a child molester, and is not now. Is there no justice? Can someone help him?

Humanity for Prisoners is here to help in 2010.

We thank you for being here to help HFP in 2010!

HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS
P.O. Box 687
Grand Haven, MI 49417

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Our wish to you for the new year

We use this Franciscan Benediction as our wish for you in 2010:

May God bless you with DISCOMFORT...at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with ANGER...at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with TEARS...to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to their their pain into JOY.

And may God bless you with enough FOOLISHNESS...to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you DO what others claim cannot be done.

Amen





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