Premature deaths occur behind bars. Wanna know why?

What would it be like for a person behind bars?   As a worker with the incarcerated, I often ask that question when certain issues arise in my own life. That was the case when I recently underwent surgery for colon cancer.   -The mass was discovered during a routine check-up by my primary care physician. In that prison healthcare is so marginal, how likely is it that a malignant mass would be found in its early stage?   -Upon discovery of the problem, I was able to meet with a surgeon within a week! For the incarcerated, nothing happens quickly.   -Preparation for a colonoscopy begins one day in advance, with a colon-cleansing regimen that demands frequent urgent bathroom visits. Virtually impossible in our state prisons! Can you imagine?   -Pain meds were critical in my post-op recovery. HFP Office Manager Susie Greenbauer, who handles most of our medical complaints, says: “…the surgeon will recommend follow up visits, therapy, certain meds, further care and the MDOC provide

Justice for all? Really?

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."   Reciting The Pledge of Allegiance is sorta like offering The Lord’s Prayer. We get so accustomed to saying them that we don’t really pay attention to the words.   The United States may be the “land of the free, and the home of the brave,” but if you think that, in our nation, there is “justice for all,” you’ve got another guess coming!   Case in point.   The HFP office helps many incarcerated people in the preparation of applications for a commutation of sentence. I was asked to review the application of an elderly Native American physician, and that’s when my blood starting boiling!   Here’s a capsule of his story.   Dr. Desai’s business partner was strangled to death in 1983. 12 years later, based on a conversation by 2 other people alleging that he had solicited someone to commit the c

How is it possible? A positive ending to the outrageous Maurice Carter Story!

I hate to visit the city of Benton Harbor, Michigan. I have friends there. I have done business there. I have worshiped there. But the tragic memories of the shameful Maurice Carter case come alive every time my car reaches the city limits.   That was the case just the other day. Award-winning film maker Nathan Roels wanted to shoot some footage at the scene of the crime for which Maurice was wrongly convicted. Roels is producing a short documentary about the Carter story, having been commissioned by Humanity for Prisoners. The focus on that story is especially significant this year. For one thing, 2024 marks the 20 th anniversary of Maurice’s release from prison. And, a group of University of Michigan law students hope to file an appeal for a posthumous pardon by Governor Whitmer soon.   I reluctantly agreed to the Benton Harbor visit.   I find it amazing that God can take this list of shameful facts to create beauty: -Maurice was arrested for shooting and injuring an off-dut

Black victims, LGBTQ victims, shooting victims: all June musing topics of this prisoner advocate

As an advocate doing my best to help the incarcerated---men and women who are unable to help themselves---news stories about crime and crime victims, racial discrimination and suppression, and the idea that all of us are not created equal, have been capturing my attention this month.   Guns   Today, for example, marks eight years since a gunman opened fire at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people and leaving 53 wounded. The June 12, 2016, massacre was one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history!   Yet, progress in dealing with the issue is slow, indeed. The Center for American Progress reports that voters are increasingly recognizing that gun violence is a serious problem, and that weak gun laws are driving the rise in violent crime. “When state legislatures repeal effective gun laws, such as those requiring a permit to purchase a firearm or to carry guns in public places, violent crime increases and communities becomes less safe. Elected officials who

Does God love prisoners? Do we?

  Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. Dalai Lama   When Pastor Nate discussed our love for each other, and God’s love for us on Sunday, my thoughts immediately went to prisoners. It’s important that we get reminders about saying “I love you” to family and friends.   It’s important to be reminded that, no matter our failures and shortcomings, God loves us.   But, when Jesus gives us instructions (not suggestions!) about love, things get sticky. I’m talking about   Love your neighbor as yourself. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.   It was troubling enough when Jesus explained to a questioner that, by “neighbor,” he wasn’t talking about the guy next door. He was saying that it’s up to us to behave like that Good Samaritan in his parable.   But then he went on to say, “Love your enemies.” Could that possibly mean prisoners? Especially the ones who may have harmed me or my friends? The ones who cont

Kindness: Not just a gesture, but a necessity!

The audience was rather small. Perhaps 30 people. But in that tiny gathering, there were four former clients of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS!   We had been invited by the Holland Museum to show Nate Roel’s award-winning video Behind Our Walls   as a part of their monthly Cultural Lens series. The film is a powerful documentary featuring the Calvin Prison Initiative project, an in-prison college program led by Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary.   I want to tell you about the four HFP clients who were there.   The first was Mark Hartman, our own Executive Director. Mark served 12 years for a crime he didn’t commit. His story leading to Humanity for Prisoners is a good one. He had never heard of us, but while in prison a fellow inmate gave him a copy of my book Sweet Freedom.  Having been arrested in Berrien County, he was amazed at the similarities between his story and that of Maurice Carter. He wanted to meet the author. That led to a very special bond between Mark and

Remembering our veterans behind bars: Still heroes!

The Government calls them “justice-involved veterans.” They’re former service members now serving time under the supervision of the criminal justice system.   On this Memorial Day, I’d like to pay tribute not only to incarcerated veterans in the State of Michigan, but also to the Michigan Department of Corrections for its treatment and care of veterans.   How many are in prison, and what brought them there?   Well, there are more than 100,000 military veterans locked up   in prisons throughout the United States…some 2,000 of them right here in Michigan. More than 98% are men.   According to the VA, more than half of “justice-involved veterans” have either mental health problems or substance-abuse disorders, most notably alcohol or cocaine addiction. In addition, a large percentage are also homeless or at-risk for homelessness, and many others face such challenges as finding work and reintegrating into society. Sadly, these vets also may be at higher risk for suicide.   What c