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Three lives, connected by a divine thread

My kids say it should be a book! The Doug, Pat and Mark story is a doozie!   About 25 years ago, while fighting to free Maurice Carter from prison, I read a newspaper column written by Pat Shellenbarger of the Grand Rapids Press on the topic of eyewitness identification. I contacted Pat re that story. That led to a friendship between Doug and Pat that continues to this day.   In subsequent months, Pat would go on to assist me in an investigation into the Maurice Carter case that eventually led to solving the crime.  That particular episode became a chapter in my book about the Carter case, SWEET FREEDOM, published in 2006.   Fast forward to 2009, A New York businessman claims wrongful conviction, and while serving time in a Michigan prison is handed a copy of my book. Mark Hartman, who was also convicted in Berrien County, was amazed at the similarity of these two stories and tried to reach out to me. His letters bounced.   Persisting in his efforts to contact the author, Mark

What a way to start the day! What a way to start the week!

I’m not sure exactly when I rented Box 687 in the United States Post Office of Grand Haven, Michigan…but it was early in our 23-year history. Those were the days before we communicated with prisoners via email, so the US Mail was our main method of conveying messages.   What I do recall, though, is that the daily visit to that post office box was a part of my prayer life. HFP was a one-man show back then. Each day, when I dropped off my packet of letters to prisoners and to those persons who supported the work of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS, I said a prayer over the outgoing mail. Then I would take a couple steps over to the PO box, and pray that something good (preferably financial contributions) would be in the stack of incoming mail that day.   Those memories are all coming back to me this week. HFP is no longer a one-man show, and I am no longer the one who makes the post office visits each morning. But, our Office Manager Suzie has caught the fever! Now she looks forward to seeing

It’s no way to treat kids!

Michigan’s deadliest school shooting in history is still in the headlines, and it’s forcing us to do some serious thinking.   Ethan Crumbley, now 17 years of age, is serving life in prison for killing four classmates at Oxford High School in November, 2021.   The news that made headlines in recent days was that Jennifer Crumbley, 45, is now the first US parent convicted of manslaughter over a mass shooting carried out by their child. Prosecutors accused her of being negligent in allowing her son to have a gun, and ignoring warnings signs.   I don’t have any problem with the way our justice system is treating Mrs. Crumbley. I have a problem with the way we’re treating her son.   While Michigan legislators consider bills that would ban life sentences without the possibility of parole for children, we contin u e to support such a sentence when the crime is something that really makes us angry. Like the Oxford tragedy. Ethan Crumbley was sentenced to life without the possibility o

John Lewis: “….get in good trouble, necessary trouble."

Marcia loved to sing this prayer of St. Francis of Assisi…both for the melody and the lyrics, and I loved to hear her sing it!   Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.   O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.   Then along came the famous author Anon., who penned a flip side to that beautiful prayer.   It sort of follows the thinking of John Lewis, and, I’m liking it!   The Reverse Prayer of St. Francis   Dear Lord, make me a channel of disturbance. Where there is apathy, let me provoke. Where there is compliance, let me bring

I’m sick and tired of it!

I’ve never spent a lot of time thinking about money. Maybe that’s because I never had much of it. I was gainfully employed all my life, so Marcia and I were able to raise four kids and pay the bills. Granted, there were some lean years in my topsy-turvy world of three distinctly different careers, but we always had enough to eat.   My thoughts turned to money recently, however, when my cousin Nancy---who had an amazing career as an exemplary teacher---posted this little statement on Facebook:   Imagine a world where pro athletes buy their own footballs   and teachers get diamond rings for being good at their jobs.   As a former broadcast journalist, I’m still a bit of a news junkie…so I started paying attention to stories about those persons who make a lot of money.   -Donald Trump, during a recent deposition, threw around all kinds of sky-high figures, pegging his famous name and related brand at $2.9 billion and even $3 billion!   -Shohei Ohtani, major league baseball pla

Cages: No place for man nor beast!

"If you ask a child to draw a picture of a zoo, chances are they'll draw an animal behind bars. We gotta take that image and change it." Jim Breheny, Director, Bronx Zoo   “If you ask someone to draw a picture of a prisoner, chances are they’ll draw a person behind bars. We gotta take that image and change it!” Doug Tjapkes, Founder, Humanity for Prisoners   I’m thinking about my hero Dr. MLK this week, thinking about my incarcerated friends this week, and wishing I had the skill to craft my own “I Have a Dream” speech.   I have a dream that here, in my favorite state, we might trash our present programs of punishment and retribution, and start thinking about humanity and rehabilitation for those persons who have made terrible mistakes. Just a quick note. Those individuals, also, were created in the image of God. Just a quick footnote. God loves them just as much as he loves you and me!   I have a dream that Michigan chooses to end solitary confinement in its pr

I don't know how you sleep at night!

  If the law is not strong enough to protect the humblest and weakest citizen it deserves the contempt of all. Clarence Darrow   Many, many years ago, I received a standing ovation after telling members of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan (CDAM), “You are the backbone of our justice system!” I made that statement, realizing that a member of the HFP Board of Directors was wincing. His son had just married a young woman who made a career of defending criminals, and he boldly told her, “I don’t know how you sleep at night!”   As a young broadcast journalist, in my first career, I felt some of the same emotions as our board member. How does one defend these creeps?   Decades later, I befriended a poor Black guy sitting in the Michigan prison system, accused of a crime he did not commit. His defense attorney, and I use the term loosely, had a reputation of falling asleep in the courtroom. Appointed by the State of Michigan to make sure that Maurice H. Carter would receive a