Showing posts from October, 2008

Michiganders, what are you going to do about this?

Two things came across my desk today that should irritate every Michigan citizen! First, the Associated Press reported that according to state auditors, the Michigan Department of Corrections paid nearly $67-million in overtime to prison guards in the 2006-07 budget year. In fact, one officer worked 2,390 overtime hours! That's like working more than two full-time jobs. Prisoners tell us they have heard guards boasting about how much money they're taking home. And while prison guards are living that way, let me tell you how some of our prisoners are living. I received a letter today from a prisoner at the Mid-Michigan Correctional Facility, located in St. Louis, Michigan, who shall remain anonymous for obvious reasons. There is no doctor here. For some reason whenever there is a new doctor, they never stay. It's so hard for anyone to see a doctor, and the lucky ones may see one after months of complaining or going through physical ailments. There's no dentist he


Remember when we tried to give a wheelchair to a Michigan prisoner earlier this year, and it took almost five months to make it happen? To refresh your memory, a prisoner needing a wheelchair had a problem getting one from the state, and so we innocently shipped a donated chair. But apparently that was in violation of some policy, and it took months before reason prevailed, and the chair was moved from the warden’s office to the cell of the prisoner. Well, the state never forgot that, and now the same prisoner is in the Michigan Department of Corrections limelight again. This time he’s been placed in the hole (segregation). The charge: Smuggling! It’s a case much more serious than the wheelchair incident: His friend, with his knowledge and consent, sent him a new pair of sunglasses ! Think of the serious ramifications! Everyone should know that sunglasses may not be sent to a prisoner. Just as with the wheelchair, this is against policy. But the MDOC dug in on this one, app

One of a kind!

Maurice Carter: his life, a sermon. Maurice Carter died exactly four years ago tonight, after just three months of freedom. His strength ran out in the fight against multiple physical problems contracted in the Michigan prison system, a miserable hell-on-earth where he spent half of his life. His last words to me, in a whisper that I could hardly hear: "I love you!" This humble, unassuming, innocent man had no idea that his simple examples in life would become a profound sermon, even after death. Over 29 years of incarceration, his compassion and gentle demeanor under a cloud of false accusation would -bring tears to the eyes of investigating university students -touch the lives of countless prisoners -enrage those who assumed that punishment and cruelty could conquer his soul -frustrate a judicial system so intent on winning that it even resorted to ridicule -maintain his dignity under scorching words during insensitive parole sessions -impress the finest of legal teams -end

Is the system broke?

SYSTEM FAILS BOSNIAN FAMILY, MICHIGAN AGENCY CLAIMS Shattered Hidanovic family soon to be splintered! American’s allegedly exemplary law enforcement and judicial systems have miserably failed in a North Dakota case, according to Doug Tjapkes, President, HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS, a prisoner advocacy agency based in Michigan. Poet Carrie Latet is quoted as saying, May I never wake up from the American dream. Tjapkes says that for Chanda Hidanovic, her husband and four children, the dream has turned into a nightmare. Mevludin Hidanovic, husband and father, is the only member of the Bosnian family who is not a U.S. citizen. The Fargo man was arrested for starting a fight at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds in June, 2006, while attending a county fair with family and friends. The arrest was serious, because alleged criminals who are not citizens face deportation. Here’s how our “system” failed, from bottom to top, charged Tjapkes: 1. Local police used driver’s license photographs for their “

Prompt response!

Our sincere thanks to the wonderful response to our plea for thoughts and prayers for numerous women who were struggling yesterday. It was a tough way to begin the week in this office! Somewhere in the nation, our request reached a prayer chain, and a kind woman, whose location and identity are unknown to us, offered this prayer: Father, Our Lord, We lift up all of these dire needs before your throne of grace and we come boldly to you seeking your mercy and help for these women and their loved ones that are needing divine intervention. You know all of the situations and all of the praying, hopeful hearts. We pray in faith, believing that you will supply everything that is needed for these dear ones that are needing your hand to bring miracles in their lives and loved ones lives. We ask for the needs to be met exceedingly above all that we are asking for. For it is through faith that we believe that all things are possible! In Jesus name we pray, Amen. On behalf of all hurting women w

Prayers, please!

We're calling today "PRAY FOR WOMEN DAY:" -The mother of a violent prisoner with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, because she cannot persuade officials to give him medicine and a psych evaluation -The mother of an adult prisoner with a record a mile long, who was on drugs and sleeping in a car, but has now been blamed for a crime he claims he did not commit -The wife of a prisoner dying of cancer due to lack of proper diagnosis, who is being harassed by prison personnel and bombarded with bad luck -A female prisoner who claims she is incarcerated because she blew the whistle on a state cop who beat her -The frantic mom of a mentally challenged 16-year-old prisoner who can't get straight answers from the prison system and worries about her son's welfare -The grandmother of a 15-year-old bi-polar child with the mind of a 9-year-old, sentenced to 9 to 15 years in prison for sexual play with a 6-year-old, who has been in and out of the adult prison population, does not get his

On starting a new week

It's time that we, once again, read and absorb this Franciscan Benediction as we begin another week: 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 turn 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 can DO what others claim cannot be done. Amen

What we are

I realize that some friends have questions about supporting Humanity for Prisoners because it's so difficult for us to explain just what we do. This unusual ministry doesn't bring religious lessons into the prison or hold services for prisoners, it doesn't provide religious or educational correspondence courses. All of those ministries are wonderful, and we thank God for ANYONE willing to help a prisoner in any way! But we attempt to MODEL Christ: -get a wheelchair to a crippled inmate who cannot get one from the state -join a team trying to free a poor man who has served 35 years for a crime he did not commit -help parents and grandparents of mentally ill children thoughtlessly thrown into the adult prison system by inconsiderate judges -find a pleasant facility outside of prison for a dying inmate -pray with a death row inmate minutes before his execution -hold the hand of a Bosnian friend whose husband may be deported due to a disgusting wrongful conviction, thus leaving

Weaken not

It's not unusual for those of us working in this business of helping "the least of these" to find ourselves propping up a fellow worker during a moment of despair. In fact, I need it rather often. But today, it was another co-worker, in another state, who was blasted by her friend Juanita for decrying the fact that hate-mongering is being demonstrated at some political rallies. And, in response to her appeal for support to save the life of death row inmate Troy Davis, a friend responded: It seems NOT okay to kill criminals, but it IS okay to kill innocent, unborn babies. Here, in part, are the thoughts I shared with her. We must not stoop to their level. Shake the dust off your shoes, and lets get on with what we believe Jesus wants us to do. I've got a poor woman on line now whose husband is dying of throat cancer because prison doctors didn't do a biopsy in time. And since California is so strict on sex offenders (this one claims wrongful conviction) her 15

Kind words from a saint!

Doug, Thank you for your precious care for prisoners! Sister Helen Prejean With your help, it will continue! Doug Tjapkes, President HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS

Does IMMIGRATION really care?

Some of you have followed, with interest, the story of a Bosnian family in North Dakota. Mevludin Hidanovic is in danger of being deported, because he was wrongly convicted in a simple situation where there was a fight in an amusement park. He was wrongly identified as the instigator, refused a plea bargain, and spent a year in jail. Worse than that, he is not a citizen and now he has a criminal record. That's grounds for deportation. While attorneys continue to battle the case on legal grounds, his wife and four children (all U.S. citizens) are hoping for mercy. They hope to keep their husband and father here. Meanwhile, he's being held in a county jail in Minnesota, which is NOT next door. The hearing was scheduled for this week. Said his wife Chanda: ...yesterday was supposed to be his big deportation hearing to find out if he stays or goes. So, I take two days off work, pull the kids out of school, drive four hours to Minneapolis, spend the night in a hotel room, ge

Arn is in a better place!

It is always a sad day here in the office, and for loved ones, when one of the prisoners we have helped leaves this earth. We received the message over the weekend from Mary Ann Thomas, international flight attendant who resides in North Carolina, that her brother Arnold had died, here in Michigan. Mary Ann and I first met by email in January, 2007, when, in her characteristically unselfish manner, she contacted our office asking that we assist another prisoner at once who reportedly was not getting proper medication. She asked us to help, because she was dealing with her own prison issues. I pried into her issues, and learned that she was single-handedly fighting the entire MDOC on behalf of her brother Arn, who, as a result of earlier injuries, was mentally and physically challenged. He didn't belong in the state prison system in the first place, he wasn't getting proper care there, but he was getting more than his share of abuse by guards. HFP joined the fight, and on May