Friday, February 26, 2010

Fridays can be unpleasant!

Today's stack on my desk was particularly discouraging:

A worried mom informed us that her imprisoned son, already depressed following the death of his only child, is now being placed in a compromising situation where it appears he'll get written up no matter which we he turns, and he has done nothing!

A mentally ill juvenile wrote to inform us that he has been placed in segregation (private cell 23 hours a day, one hour of freedom) for his own protection because he's in an adult facility! If you or I put a teenager in a cage 23 hours a day, we'd be arrested!

A courageous prisoner in a unit for the mentally ill sent affidavits: ...they do not know how to deal with mentally ill patients. They simply say they're disruptive and abuse them, ignore them, or place them in restraints of all kinds! They leave some of these guys there for days and in their bodily fluid waste!

But then, just when I'm ready to put my fist through a wall, a former prisoner whom we helped reach freedom last year, walks into our office: Will you be my best man in our wedding?

I thought of these words of Dan Borchert:

But here is the thing. Whatever happens here has not knocked God off His throne. He is still in charge. He is still in control. And He still is the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Have a great weekend, and keep prisoners and keep HFP in your thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Little can be much!

I was reading in Psalm 41 this morning: "Blessed are those who have regard for the weak..."

Mr. P., a Hispanic prisoner, has been communicating with us. For two years he couldn't find his children. Through our computer search we found a relative who led him to his daughter.

Things are getting better with contacting my children! My oldest girl has got me in touch with my older son. Things are starting to fall in place! I guess a little prayer really works. When I get some pictures I'll send them for you to see my little people. It's an honor to know of someone with such compassion and conviction who is an advocate for prisoners as myself, with no one to speak for them. Having you and your organization on my side makes a big difference. Thank you so much, man!

And we thank YOU. We can't help Mr. P. without help from you!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Are you feeling alone today?

Then let me tell you about the plight of Ms. D, whom we are helping to file a commutation application. When you seek release from prison, you must first assure the state that you have a place to live:

This probably sounds pitiful, Doug, but I have nowhere to go when I leave here!
My mother and oldest brother are deceased
My sister chose her husband over our relationship
My surviving brother is a drug addict
The friends I had when I came to prison slowly faded away
The ones I have now are ex-felons and have gone home.
Maybe I'll have to go to a shelter.


Says Robert Montgomery:

“Home, the spot of earth supremely blest, A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest”

Unless you don't have one.

Spencer Hassevoort: a real champion!

When Spencer Hassevoort agreed to race his snowmobile for charity, who would have guessed? The results are in!

The youngster from Spring Lake, Michigan, would drive his vintage snow machine on two Saturdays in January, and two Saturdays in February...three events per Saturday in the BEVRA sanctioned races at Lakeview, Michigan: Stock A, Stock B, and Super Stock.

We began taking pledges per race, many HFP contributors showing a willingness to double their money if he captured a first place trophy. And so he went after first place trophies with a vengeance!

Saturday #1, two first places and one second
Saturday #2, two first places and one second
then he ratcheted up his performance!
Saturday #3, three first place trophies!
Saturday #4, three first place trophies!


All this from a 12 year old lad, racing in an adult world.

Our congratulations to Spencer for a sensational performance, and for his generosity in helping HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS!

Our thanks to those who pledged. We welcome your contributions this week!

It was a great season!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Late pledges accepted!

Last minute pledges for tomorrow's three snowmobile races by 12 year old Spencer Hassevoort are still being accepted by email. We're within a few hundred of $3,000! Can we hit it?

Is there a brave soul among our premium supporters willing to double all money raised? With that we would almost meet budget for February!

Thanks for being there for Spence, and for us! We'll have race results as soon as we get them! Good luck to our champ!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What suggestions would YOU have?

I offered to help Chuck in filing his commutation forms, but told him he needed a place to stay, a place to work, support from family members, and perhaps a letter of support from a minister.

The church I belonged to has been closed since 1984.

There's no one at the job I had who would hire me.

My mother is 97 years old and senile...my oldest son stays with her, and he told me to stay where I'm at!

My other son and my daughter don't want to have anything to do with me.

My ex-wife sold our house.

I had two brothers, but both died.

No uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces or nephews.


If you were going to try to help this man in getting a fresh start, what would you tell him? Where would you send him? What would you tell the Parole Board?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The last race

Our champion snowmobile racer, Spencer Hassevoort, age 12, makes his final appearance of the season this coming Saturday, February 20. He'll be participating in three races at the BEVRA sanctioned event in Lakeview, Michigan. For the second year in a row, he's racing for charity...allowing us to take pledges on his three races. It's your opportunity to demonstrate support for this fine young man's efforts, and for the on-going work of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS!

If you agree to pledge $10 each if he ends up in the winner's circle (1-2-3), you will contribute up to $30, tax exempt, to HFP. If you agree to double the amount for every first-place trophy he wins, chances are you'll make a donation of $50-60, if past races are any indication. Email your pledges...I'll keep the records. Go, Spencer!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Words of encouragement

This was sent to us by one of our friends this morning:

Jesus lives in the forgotten. He has taken up residence in the ignored. He has made a mansion among the ill. If we want to see God, we must go among the broken and beaten and there we will see him.

Max Lucado

We're down in there, thanks to YOU, so I'm sure we'll bump into Him!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Another day at the office

No money arrived in the mail again today.

But, here's what did arrive:

Letter #1

I was denied my food trays in the mental health unit
Inmate F cut his wrist due to mental illness
Inmate L cut himself, too
Inmate A was covered in his own feces for more than 2 weeks
because we're talking there is retaliation


Letter #2

The staff members in this mental health unit are not trained to handle the mentally ill
they tie them down
put them in restraints
allow them to mutilate themselves enough to cause death or serious harm


Letter #3

I am fully aware that I can expect retaliation from a place that
confines a mentally ill person longer in segregation
denies vital medication
writes arbitrary and capricious misconduct tickets
ties a person down on the bed for a duration of time.

The reporter in me says that all of this may not be true.

The prisoners whom we know, and who dare to speak confidentially, say, "Don't be so sure!"

It's another day in the office of HFP, and we need YOU!

May God be near all prisoners in units housing the mentally ill, and touch all of those helping to care for them.





http://humanityforprisoners.blogspot.com/

HFP: Expanding on the internet!

HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS is taking a major plunge into the world of the internet. In doing so, we apologize for temporary inconvenience as the web sites are redesigned and reworked.

Meanwhile, we are also beginning a regular series of broacasts on the internet.

Our first commentary dealing with the subject of mental illness in prisons can be heard at:


http://blip.tv/file/3196408


Follow the instructions: Push click to start. Your comments will be appreciated.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A triple-crown winner!

He did it! Our 12-year-old snowmobile racer, Spencer Hassevoort, captured first place trophies in all three events in which he participated Saturday! Spencer, who is racing for charity this year, had his best Saturday yet: Stock A, first place; Super Stock A, first place; Stock B, first place!

Thanks to all who pledged. through aYour contributions are tax exempt, and will help us through a difficult first quarter. The final snowmobile race of the season is coming up on February 20. Will Spence be ready? Will you?

Congratulations, young man, from HFP, from HFP supporters, and from many, many prisoners!

(in picture below, Spencer's sled number is 122)

http://www.bevraracing.com/t_4.50.html

Sunday, February 7, 2010

This is why Spence races for us,

And this is why your pledges, your gifts, your support, your prayers are so important. Mr. P. is really thanking YOU!

Doug, I thank you a bunch for the day-to-day inspiration you and your organization are providing. It's an honor to know of someone as yourself with such compassion and conviction who is an advocate for prisoners as myself with no-one to speak for them. Having you and your organization on my side makes a BIG difference. Thank you so much, man!

Mr. P

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Some things never change

Here's a quote from Jimmy Hoffa in his day:


I can tell you this on a stack of Bibles: prisons are archaic, brutal, unregenerative, overcrowded hell holes where the inmates are treated like animals with absolutely not one humane thought given to what they are going to do once they are released. You're an animal in a cage and you're treated like one.


Today with your help, we're going to try to improve things, one prisoner at a time. Pray for HFP.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What would you suggest?

So you're sitting in my office. What advice do you have for this guy?

Mr. G. is a sex offender who was recently released into group housing, as his family has disowned him. He is about to run out of the MPRI housing placement. He has been working for a temp agency in Detroit, but the work isn't steady.

I know he has some college as well. He is quite discouraged, because if he doesn't get any income or another place to live, they told him they will put him in a county jail for 30 days, and then plug him back into the system for another go-around.

He has been actively seeking employment and housing opportunities. The Alpha House in Grand Rapids had no space.

If you aren't able to help Mr. G. at this time, please keep him in your prayers. He is barely treading water, and the system wants to put him back if he fails out here.

Thank you for your time and all you do for everyone!


And this time we don't know what to do.

Monday, February 1, 2010

It's time to talk

I want to tell you something.

There are many reasons why we sponsor a fund-raising project that may seem like it has more fun than substance. Are we exploiting a situation with a young lad who just happens to be one of the finest snowmobile racers in western Michigan, or is there good reason for it?

Sure, we

-like the extra publicity that shows up, even on sports pages
-love the fun of watching a youngster pass the adult racers at the finish line
-very much appreciate the pledges from people who want to support this lad & HFP

BUT

Here's why we go to these unusual efforts to keep dollars coming into our coffers.

On January I received a letter from a woman in prison who had given up. Diane had been locked up for 20 years, claiming innocence, and she felt her life had come to an end. She not only had given up on hope, she couldn't even see the glitter of a candle at the end of the tunnel. Said she: Some part of me gave up hope long ago, and I wonder if for some reason God decided this was to be my place on his earth. I don't know. I appreciate your kind words. Your selfless work will be rewarded.

HFP's job is not to give empty hope. That would be worse than a little white lie. That would violate everything we stand for. That would be an offense to him in whose name we labor each day.

And so I responded.

Today, on my desk, her reply. I give you words from the first paragraph: The first thing I want to do is thank you...for telling me you believe me, but more so, for giving me hope. I lost that feeling years ago. I just had to keep believing it intellectually in order to keep on going. You have given me true hope. HOPE! Today I have tears in my eyes, and HOPE IN MY HEART! Thank you for that!

Spencer, that's why your races are so important to us!

Friends of HFP, that's why your support is so critical during the lean months of the first quarter!

Spencer: A winner!

Spencer Hassevoort may be only 12 years of age, but he’s number one in the rankings at the sanctioned BEVRA snowmobile races on Tamarack Lake, in Lakeview Michigan! Hassevoort races vintage snowmobiles, in an adult world, and for the second year in a row he has agreed to be fund-raiser for a local prisoner advocacy agency: HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS!

The season began on January 16, with young Hassevoort, of Spring Lake, participating in three events for HFP. He won two first place trophies, and took second place in the other race!

On Saturday, January 30, he duplicated the feat: two firsts, and one second!

Doug Tjapkes, President of HFP, said that the race ace has already raised $900.00 for HFP, and there are two more events this season, on February 6 and February 20. He said it is hoped that Hassevoort’s efforts can top last year’s total of nearly $2,000.00. Pledges for next Saturday’s event can be emailed to the office.

The youngster is entered in three classes: Stock A, Stock B and Super Stock A. The races are sponsored by Big Extreme Vintage Racing Association.