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Jerry was there for Maurice. Who’s there for Jerry!

The year was 2003. Marcia received an unusual daytime prison call. It was Maurice Carter’s bunkie. Jerry Talison called to tell us that Maurice was experiencing a medical emergency due to Hepatitis C. Marcia was a savvy RN, immediately grasped what was happening, and between the two of them, I believe they saved Maurice’s life!   Well, Maurice died in 2004, just three months after being released from prison.   Jerry remained in prison, and then he started experiencing his own health crises…plural!   First, he had a stroke. The lack of medical care that resulted in Maurice’s serious condition then affected Jerry. The stroke brought high blood pressure and balance problems. The man who helped Maurice survive a medical crisis now requires an aide to assist him as he does his best with a wheelchair, a cane and hand brace. Due to kidney failure, he undergoes dialysis sessions three times a week.   Trips to a local hospital are not uncommon.   We’re going to try to help his handful

RIP, Danny Jones!

Like her or not, one must admit that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi took the high road on that sad day in 2017 when a gunman opened fire on a practice for the Congressional Baseball Game. Republican Whip Steve Scalise was seriously wounded. Said Speaker Pelosi: “On days like today, there are no Democrats or Republicans, only Americans united in our hopes and prayers for the wounded.”   In other words, “If you take a shot at one of us, you take a shot at all of us.”   That’s what I’m feeling today after hearing the news about one of our prisoner advocates.   Last weekend the movement to end perpetual punishment suffered a great loss with the tragic death of Danny Jones. The name probably doesn’t ring a bell with you, but those of us involved in prisoner advocacy knew of him and his work. Danny was a former juvenile lifer determined to bring about change. He was associated with several state advocacy agencies, but is best remembered as a founding staff person for Michigan Collab

Thanks! From both sides of bars!

For the incarcerated, there isn’t a long list of things to be thankful for. As we approached the holiday this year, I just grabbed a sample of messages from prisoners received in the HFP office in just one day!   John: “Thank you for your quick response about the Flu and Covid shots.” Jen: “You guys are the only ones that seem to be able to get a response as to my need and I am so thankful for your concern.” Joe: “Thanks for being there for us. God bless!” Shane: “Thank you for all of your compassionate help. I greatly appreciate it.” Jason: “Thank you so much for your time, and thank you for the Clean Slate Act forms.” Chris: “I just wanted to thank you for sending me the parole plan packet…it is very informative.” Andre: “I am so thankful for you and those who work with you.” Sybil: “Thank you so much for all the wonderful services offered.” Charles: “T hanks for the info on the parole board questions.” Daniel: “Thank you for all you do! IT'S TRULY APPRECIATED

Seeking forgiveness? Great! Granting forgiveness? Let me think about it!

  If you don’t heal what hurt you, you’ll bleed on people who didn’t cut you. Anon.   How we love to pray these words on Sunday: “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.”   And how we hate to forgive on Monday!   I was chatting with one of HFP’s major donors. She was lamenting the fact that, in one of the multitude of outrageous political ads prior to the recent election, one candidate was being scorched for having committed an infraction 40 years ago! “Don’t they believe in forgiveness, in restoration, in healing,” she asked?   The places where I see it the most are in courtrooms and in Parole Board hearings. Families, friends and loved ones of crime victims often cannot let go. There is, somehow, this perception that if the perpetrator can be kept in prison for the remainder of his or her life, or perhaps better yet, if the criminal can receive a death sentence, there will be closure. I can state, with no hesitation, life without parole and

Remembering vets behind bars

I used to boast that they blew factory whistles on my birthday. It’s true, but it wasn’t because Doug Tjapkes had entered the world. November 11, in the olden days, was called Armistice Day. It marked the agreement signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany in France, ending the fighting. It took effect at eleven in the morning—the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918.   And so, in the City of Muskegon, when I was a little kid, many of the town’s factory whistles blew at 11 AM on the 11 th day of the 11 th month. Imagine my pride, especially in 1947, when I was 11 years old! Armistice Day was a big deal back then!   The name of the holiday changed in 1954 when President Eisenhower relabeled it Veteran’s Day.   This Veteran’s Day, I’m asking that you expand your consideration and admiration to those veterans behind bars. We have more than 100,000 veterans serving time in our state and federal prisons. About 29,000 of these men wer

This story/situation makes me (burp) angry!

My topic today is acid reflux. I have it, and so does Michigan inmate Mr. R.   The thing is, I can do something about it. He, on the other hand, is having his share of problems.   Here’s the story.   Mr. R has been treated for his reflux problem, while in prison, for the past 20 years. That came about after hospital tests revealed that he was suffering from a hiatal hernia. But the other day, out of the blue, the nurse practitioner informed him that she’s getting pressured by her superiors to take patients off the medication (Zantac and Pepcid), and instruct them to buy it from the prisoner store.   His prescription ran out at the end of October, and medical care now refuses to renew it. “Get it from the prisoner store.”   (Mr. R says that, a year ago, this same medical practitioner took away his migraine prescription and gave him Tylenol!)   Here’s why HFP is getting involved, and here’s why this is such a big deal. At the prisoner store, he’ll have to pay $4.86 for 8 Pepcid

Do NOT throw away the key!

I love visiting with lifers!   These are the persons a former director of the MDOC shamefully called “the worst of the worst!”   How often have you heard the phrase, “Lock him up and throw away the key?” Those of us who are tough on crime and hate lawlessness love to say things like that. Or even worse: “Give him the electric chair. I’ll be the first to throw the switch!”   All that stuff is on my mind this week because Matt and I spent a couple hours in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Monday chatting with lifers at the Chippewa Correctional Facility, invited there by the National Lifers Association.   I guess the name needs a bit of explanation first.   The NLA was founded some 40 years ago by five men at the State Prison of Southern Michigan in Jackson. It’s a pioneer in the movement for prison reform driven by people who are themselves behind bars. There’s a chapter in every Michigan prison. And, despite the name, it’s primarily a Michigan organization.   The NLA’s primary mi