Showing posts from November, 2008

Speech for Amnesty International, Toronto

December 1, 2008 Immediate Release Tjapkes an Amnesty speaker in Toronto Doug Tjapkes, President of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS, was scheduled as a guest speaker Sunday night, November 30, at a Cities for Life rally in Toronto, Ontario. Mayor David Miller, in a public ceremony, officially proclaimed Toronto a city against the death penalty, part of an international action involving more than 800 cities worldwide participating in the event this year. Cities for Life was the largest anti-death penalty event in Canada, and an important activist action for Amnesty Canada. Mayor Miller made his proclamation at Nathan Phillips Square Sunday night, and that was followed by a public march to St. James Cathedral. Among the list of speakers was Doug Tjapkes, of Spring Lake, who addressed the crowd by video recording. The evening ended with an illumination ceremony lighting up the front of St. James Cathedral, and the ringing of the Bells of Olde York. Here is the 12-minute speech that was prepar

Why we press on!

Dear Doug, On this Thanksgiving — the first one I’m spending with my family since 1984 — I thought I would send a note to tell you how thankful I am for my freedom and for the chance at a new life. I’m thankful to my family for welcoming me home, and to God for making my exoneration possible. I’m thankful to the Innocence Project staff for their work on my case and, most of all, to you, for your support as a member of the Innocence Project community. I spent 23 years behind bars in Texas for a crime I didn’t commit. After not knowing for a lot of years whether the truth would ever come out, DNA testing proved my innocence and I was released in April. I’ve been out for seven months now, and it’s hard to express how good it feels. I’m starting to build a life. I live with my sister in Garland, Texas, and I’m taking computer programming classes through an organization called Central Dallas Ministries. Technology has changed so much since I went to prison, but I’m really into learning new

An outrage! My heart is broken

Late word from my dear friend Chanda, whose husband was wrongly convicted in North Dakota as the result of a fairgrounds brawl. This is a Bosnian family, but only her husband was not yet a citizen. Yesterday, the feds met to decide whether her husband could remain in the United States with his wife and four children, as he is now considered a convicted criminal. This morning, in my email messages, this heartbreaking letter: ---- Original Message ----- From: "Chanda Hidanovic" < >To: "Doug Tjapkes" < >Sent: Monday, November 24, 2008 9:41 PM Once again Doug I get to share bad news with you. The immigration court decided to deport Mevludin. I will be taking some time away from work and the computer this coming week. Devastated is not even the word to describe how I am feeling. The pain is like grieving from death. The thought of leavng my kids and family is the worst pain I have ever felt in my life.I

The reality of the situation

A friend of ours just received a horrible letter from a Michigan prisoner! He said that a 300-pound bully was assigned as his cell-mate. The man's anger erupted, he threw her friend around in the cell, choked him, and finally her friend had to make a decision that neither you nor I can possibly imagine: He could either rat on the guy and be branded a snitch for the remainder of his time in prison, or be subjected to a rape. His mind in a turmoil, not wanting to be in jeopardy the remainder of his time in prison, he reluctantly chose the latter . Later he was so ashamed he tried to hang himself! His letter was still in my mind this afternoon as I listened to a speech by an official telling of a new, positive attitude in the Michigan Department of Corrections that hopefully will reduce the rate of recidivism. The prison system that was the topic of his discussion sounded like a different one than I know. Pray without ceasing for prisoners! Unless you've been an inmate, you'l

We need you!

'Tis the season to be thankful, and a few Thanksgiving gifts to HFP could touch many lives! We have some immediate needs, and no immediate funds: $250 to settle up with Christ Memorial Church in Holland, where the wonderful WE CARE concert helped us to continue our advocacy for prisoners ! $270.40 to purchase another carton of the book SWEET FREEDOM, which we provide to prisoners at no charge, upon request! $389.72 for four new Cooper GLS tires, 205-65-15, to replace FOUR BALD TIRES on our car so that we may make holiday visits to prisoners in Michigan winter weather! ( Or, does anyone know where we can purchase tires of this size and quality at a lower price? We are NOT committed to this dealer .) In the spirit of the holidays, will you please help? We are very thankful for our loyal supporters! Doug Tjapkes HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS 20 W. Muskegon Avenue Muskegon, MI 49440

Ending the week on a dismal note

The frustration continues this week. This year we've been trying to help the supporters of an Oklahoma prisoner who has a compelling claim of wrongful conviction. Our data base, , usually works quite well for families and friends of prisoners. This time, nothing seemed to work. Every agency refused to help. Besides that, the prisoner has apparently been the subject of abuse. Quoting from the letter in front of me: While in prison, guards have, at different times, broken his nose, toe, knee cap, jaw, tooth, and permanently injured his head, back and hand, in retaliation for his attempts to find someone to help him. This has been going on for 17 years, with guards twice trying to get inmates to kill him. For 3 1/2 years they have refused medical services. No church in Oklahoma will become involved in helping any state prisoner except female prisoners with children. Over 300 have been contacted. All said that the Oklahoma Department of Corrections won't let

Mentally ill kids in prison!

From a friend of HFP: I am the mother of a mentally ill teenager who is in prison. Now I find myself helping another woman, whose 15-year-old grandson, suffering from a significant mental illness, is also in the Michigan prison system! We have connected with several organizations, hoping to bring attention and change to the care and treatment of these minors with mental illness who were sentenced at very young ages to the Michigan Department of Corrections. Both of our boy’s cases are significant, and need attention. This woman’s grandson resided in Calhoun County at the time of his sentence, and he now is still in prison. He has been in Lapeer at Thumb Correctional Facility and also at Huron Valley Men’s Facility in the Acute Stabilization Unit due to his significant mental illness, for a length of THREE MONTHS, yet, believe it or not, he was taken OFF his medications upon his entry to MDOC back in June of this year. He is not receiving an education, he was being verbally and

Perhaps tomorrow will be a better day!

I was still coming down from a "high" after viewing the first reading of a stage play that is being written about the late Maurice Carter and me. Then I returned to the office of Humanity for Prisoners this morning. A prisoner who suffers from epileptic seizures informed me that prison officials had taken away his helmet! I learned that a professional musician whom I sat with in a successful parole interview died at the young age of 44 because, I believe, his 7 year stint in prison messed with his mind! The mother of a 16 year old mentally challenged prisoner informed me that a sewer had backed up, shoes and socks of all prisoners in that unit were soaked with raw sewage for more than a day, the water had to be turned off, and prison officials informed his parents that this issue did not have high priority! A heroine in the Maurice Carter story, a single mom who spent the last year in jail, informed us by email that she doesn't know how she's going to pay the water b

On how to spread disease

The mother of a 16 year old boy, mentally challenged and in a Michigan prison, sends this message to HFP: ...this weekend the sewer backed up early Saturday, they had to shut off all water supply to his unit. It continued to flow out of the toilets, and this was as of 9:30 Sunday morning! An officer told my son to wad a towel up and try sticking it in the toilet, as his shoes, socks, etc., were wet, as well as those of everyone else on the unit. Everything on the floor was drenched with backup. It was to have been fixed Saturday night at 9, but no one showed up. Upon my visit Sunday morning, he was still in sewage-drenched shoes and socks. Our call to the command center was not well received. We were told that they had many issues and this one was not a priority. Humanity for Prisoners 20 W. Muskegon Avenue Muskegon, MI 49440

Gregory John McCormick: 1964-2008

Itchy is dead. The lifeless body of this talented rock musician, whose band Shock Therapy was a popular group especially in Europe, was found in a field in Detroit last Wednesday, November 5. The Wayne County Coroner's office informed father Glenn McCormick that the body of his son Gregory, better known to all of us as Itchy, bore no signs of trauma. Glenn said that Itchy, who had been living at his father's dental lab in Detroit, had been drinking to excess for some time. While the toxicology report has not been released yet, the general consensus seems to be that he drank himself to death. Our agency, while still named INNOCENT, first got involved with Itchy in 2005. The Detroit native, who called Germany his home, got involved in some unfortunate activity that placed him in the Michigan State prison system on a charge of arson of a dwelling. It was really just a bonfire in an alley, but an alleged parole violation placed him in prison for 1-20 years. I personally sat w

So you think the system works?

I just opened my mail today, and have on my desk a letter from a poor Latino in California. Enclosed was a letter from the Los Angeles Public Defender's office which said: While it seems inconceivable to me that you could be convicted based upon the identification of an eye witness who later recanted, and by a second eye witness who was never sure of the identification; and serving a life sentence in a case where someone else has confessed, I am sorry to say that I will not be able to assist you in overturning your conviction . nuf sed doug

We need you!

Doug Tjapkes, President of Humanity for Prisoners…is one of a handful of prisoner advocates who are, I think, what writer James Baldwin had in mind when he said the world is held together by the love of a very few people. Jeff Gerritt, Detroit Free Press My name is Dan Rooks, I’m a psychologist in Holland, Michigan, and I’m proud to serve as chairman of the Humanity for Prisoners Board of Directors. I’m proud because of our reputation of integrity which earned the above comment from one of our state’s major newspapers. This reputation is not confined to the State of Michigan. Renowned Author Sister Helen Prejean signed her picture with Doug: Thank you for your precious care for prisoners . WE HELP YOU -Strong prisoner advocacy means fewer prisoners and better use of tax money -Strong healthcare advocacy means inmates won’t infect the public upon release WE PROMISE YOU -A strong future as we seek affiliation with other solid churches and agencies

Death penalty in Michigan?

Yesterday I was privileged to be the guest speaker at a DEAD MAN WALKING prayer service on the Divine Child campus in Dearborn, Michigan. Here are excerpts of my address to some 900 high school students: As I speak in churches, I have found that some Christians speak with forked tongues when it comes to the subject of SANCTITY OF LIFE. Life is sacred at the beginning, when we're talking about abortion. Life is not sacred at the end, when we're talking about capital punishment. Life is sacred when we talk about euthanasia, but life is not sacred when we talk about war. In a recent speech at Ferris State University, Sister Helen Prejean congratulated those of us who are Michigan citizens for living in the first state to ban the death penalty. I contend that we should not be smug about this. My friend Maurice Carter contracted Hepatitis C while spending 29 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Doctors discovered that he had the liver disease in 1995, but didn't