All writing is a form of prayer - John Keats

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year?

I'm in the office alone on New Year's Eve. I was unable to leave early because the wheel kept squeaking!

Mr. V. wanted me to send letters by email to his two sisters in Honduras, wishing them a Happy New Year! He tries to send them letters, but mysteriously they never arrive.

Mr. H. called, and needed a little TLC. He has been in prison 24 years, claiming wrongful conviction, but now has a glimmer of hope because a foreign documentary maker wants to tell his story. I read the email message to him, his spirits were lifted, and he told me that he loved me.

Mr. D. wrote me a letter asking me to try to reach his grown children. He has been in prison for 15 years after his estranged wife accused him of child molestation. He could have settled for a one year jail term on a plea, but maintained his innocence. His holiday is ruined because judges ruled against him in one of the nations high courts a few days ago. Now he's desperately hoping to find offspring with a conscience to turn things around.

Mr. B. is on death row, and after we persuaded arguably the nation's leading lie detector expert to give him an examination free of charge, his attorneys are refusing! Positive results could draw amazing last-minute media attention! My letter of frustration will go out yet today. The lawyers are not facing imminent death. His execution date is rapidly approaching!

And, I just opened an angry letter from Mr. W., an exceptionally religious prisoner, full of pious phrases. He "rebuked" me for not being a computer expert who could bring up some information that he believes is important on the internet...which I cannot find. I tried. So now I am officially rebuked.

Aside from all of that, the board of HFP and I hope that your celebrations are safe, sane, and happy tonight. We are so grateful for your support, your interest, your love, and we wish the very best for you and yours in the new year! Amidst the fun and frivolity, please remember prisoners, their families and their loved ones. May God be near them in the new year, and bless us as we continue to fight in the trenches on their behalf.

Doug Tjapkes, President
20 W. Muskegon Avenue
Muskegon, MI 49440

Friday, December 26, 2008

Call to action

Christmas was no sooner past than we received an urgent call to assist a prisoner on death row in Texas. Seems a jury had reached a verdict and decided on the death penalty in just TWO HOURS! A retired forensic pathologist pleaded with us to do something for this man, because records show he was actually in a county jail at the time of the murder! His execution date is just 35 days away.

In spite of holidays, HFP has already received a record 50 requests to date for assistance in December! We need you at our side this final week of the year.

If you will get your donation in before Auld Lang Syne fills the air, you will not only receive a 2008 tax deduction, but you will also help us to do our best for forgotten prisoners with healthcare, mental illness, parole, hospice and wrongful conviction issues!

To make it even more convenient for you, here's your online donation form:

I conclude with two kind comments from our wonderful partners that arrived on Christmas Eve:

"You take our money and love and turn it into goodness and mercy just as Christ would do."


"...there is always Doug of Muskegon to the rescue. I follow in awe of those footsteps in the sands of time and compassion."


Doug Tjapkes, President
20 W. Muskegon Avenue
Muskegon, MI 49440

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Thank you!

It's no secret that we have a wide variety of supporters.

There are atheists, agnostics, evangelicals, protestants, Catholics, Jews, liberals, name it. But there is a two-strand cord that binds us all together: We agree that all prisoners deserve humane treatment, and we believe that wrongful convictions are not acceptable.

It's Christmas Eve, and the holiday weekend is here. I and my family will be in church tonight.

But regardless of where you are, and what you will be doing, I hope that for all of you the weekend will be special; that you will have the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate friends and family.

And during the laughter and gaity, I ask that you take a moment to remember a huge segment of our society under a black cloud this weekend. With more than 2-million people in prison in the United States, please remember not only the incarcerated, but the moms, dads, grandparents, children, relatives and loved ones...all real people, with real feelings and emotions.

And from all of us at HFP---the board, the volunteers, our intern, and the president---please accept our sincere admiration and thanks for daring to get involved. You have held our hand as we walked behind bars. You are helping prisoners on an individual basis to find a bright spot in this holiday season. You are the best!


Monday, December 22, 2008

New week, new year

On beginning the new week:

There is only one way in which one can endure man's inhumanity to man and that is to try, in one's own life, to exemplify man's humanity to man.
Alan Paton quotes (South African Writer and Educator, 1903-1988)

I chose that quote because of the following experience:

Over the weekend, Mrs. T sent me a brief message by email: My father is 68 and in prison, suffers from heart problems and cannot get the medicine that the doctor told him he must have. He was sent to the emergency room last Wednesday with what we thought was a heart attack. They performed a heart cauterization WITHOUT ANESTHESIA. The doctor was told that the Bureau of Prisons did not want to pay for anesthesia and not to administer it. I ask you, is this humane? We do more for our pets than we do for our prisoners.

Within minutes we pounced on that case, and will resume our pursuit of humanity today. But we cannot do it alone! Your year-end assistance will enable us to march into the new year, hand-in-hand, to keep on keepin' on!

Doug Tjapkes
20 W. Muskegon Avenue
Muskegon, MI 49440

Friday, December 19, 2008

The gift with a heart

In the past two days, HFP was pleased to receive financial contributions in the name of another family member. We were asked to notify that family member that a gift had been given in his/her name by the donor.

If you would like to do something similar, contact me by email asap...the letter can go to your family member or friend in time for Christmas.

Thank you!


20 W. Muskegon Avenue
Muskegon, MI 49440

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Count your blessings!

From COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS by Charles Partridge and Greg O'Brien:

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation...YOU ARE AHEAD OF 500 MILLION PEOPLE IN THE WORLD.

Today, with your help, we'll try to touch at least one of them!

Doug Tjapkes, President
20 W. Muskegon Avenue
Muskegon, MI 49440

Monday, December 15, 2008

Scrooge lives in North Dakota

I asked our friend Chanda Hidanovic, in Fargo, North Dakota, if there were any new developments in her husband's case. Mevludin, as you may recall, is a Bosnian who claimed wrongful conviction having to do with a skirmish at the county fairgrounds, claiming he was with his family at the amusement rides when this happened. He said that faulty eyewitness identification resulted in his arrest, refused to take a plea with a short jail sentence, and instead opted to count on our judicial system. He learned that the wheels of justice ground to a halt in his case. He was found guilty and was put behind bars. Now, because he is not a citizen, Immigration officials have deemed him a criminal not fit to live in this country. Regardless of the fact that he has a wife and four children here, he is being deported to his native land. The incident happened in 2006, and since that time HFP and many other friends have tried to assist the family and the legal team all the way to the state Supreme Court. Everything failed, and at a recent deportation hearing, Mevludin was ordered to leave our country.

Here is Chanda's response to my question for an update on this hellish case:

Just getting ready. Deciding what to pack and try to send over there. It costs $38 per 20lbs. Yet in my mind $38 to send hundreds of dollars worth of items that we won’t have to re-buy is worth it. I haven’t told the kids that I am definitely going. They have seen it on the news and we talked about it briefly but I haven’t confirmed it. I don’t want our time to be sad although I have my moments. I plan to leave right when Mevludin is deported and go for two weeks. We can look for a place to live and get a cell phone. Then I will come back and start shipping things and do the final preparations and go back.

I am angry. I am damn angry that I have to leave my children. It is the principal of it all now. My kids don’t deserve this. My husband doesn’t deserve this. I don’t deserve this. My thinking is that my kids are going to be fine. They have grandparents, even some great grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. They will be in constant contact with us via webcam, e-mail and phone. I will try and come back as much as I possibly can. We are getting them all passports so they can come to see us this summer. I just wish they were all older. I hope and pray they understand and don’t hate me. My husband---I am not sure if he will be fine. He has been broken and even more so now that he is being deported. He is a really sweet and great guy and I hope we can get that “old” Mevludin back. I just thank God that it isn’t worse. He doesn’t have a death sentence or something. This has been the worst thing to go through but at least no one has died!

I kept thinking if I stay here with my kids and my heart broken they are going to see that. Having their mom depressed, gaining weight and crying all the time isn’t good for them either. I just have a lot to think about.

I haven’t really talked to the lawyers. I think they pretty much gave up on us. I had a lot of people sending letters or e-mails to the governor and we haven’t had any response. This is going to be a really sad Christmas.

Chanda Hidanovic

Christmas time in the land of the free and home of the brave!

Doug Tjapkes, President
20 W. Muskegon Avenue
Muskegon, MI 49440

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

'Tis the gift to think of others...

My friend Brett's life took a sharp turn recently. He lives on death row in Ohio, and since his arrest in 1997 he's been trying to prove his innocence. He believed that an execution date would be delayed as the courts debate the question of cruelty by using lethal injection. But without warning, earlier this month, the State of Ohio announced his execution date: April 7, 2009!

Said Brett in a letter to me today: It's taking some getting used to for me...I had anticipated I had at least a year or so before I had to worry about this. It is hard to wrap my mind around my new life expectancy!

But then he went on...

I know this might sound stupid or idiotic, but right now I am trying to enjoy what might be my last Christmas. I am trying really hard to not let the state ruin it for me. It is funny the things that become important, but for some reason enjoying Christmas and the full Christmas spirit is important to me!!?? Go figure!

Would you be willing to help brighten his holiday season?

Just send a simple greeting card, or a short hand-written note of encouragement to:

Mr. Brett Hartman
P.O. Box 1436
Youngstown, OH 44501.

Somehow I think it will make a difference in your observance of the season!

Bless you for being on our team!

Doug Tjapkes, President
20 W. Muskegon Avenue
Muskegon, MI 49440

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

We need your help!

I should be fund raising this week!
Every newsletter we receive says that if HFP is to balance its budget, this is the month!

I should be fund raising this week!
But I had to take time out to dash to a nearby prison to give an inmate a hug! He just learned over the weekend that he has been granted a parole! You have no idea, unless you've been there, what it's like for a businessman who's never been behind bars to spend 8 years in that hellish environment. He wept.

I should be fund raising this week!
But we've just learned that we must find new office space by the first of the year. Imagine the time consumption of making presentations to potential sponsors, then making arrangements for office equipment and the transfer of cabinets full of documents!

I should be fund raising this week!
But prisoners need a Christmas card from us. For some, it is the only piece of mail they receive all year! A volunteer and I will make this happen, but it takes time.

I should be fund raising this week!
But we have a mentally ill prisoner on a hunger strike who needs immediate attention. Getting beaten by the guards doesn't seem to straighten him out. We can't wait until after the holidays!


Recognizing that we are in a recession, and completely understanding that you personally cannot balance our budget by December 31, perhaps

Your church could take a year-end offering for HFP
Your club would make a year-end contribution to charity
Your family members would be willing to receive one less gift
Your office staff could have a jeans Friday, and make an HFP contribution for that privilege
Your employer would welcome a new idea for a year-end donation
Your friend is looking for a needy charity at year's end.


Doug Tjapkes, President
20 W. Muskegon Avenue
Muskegon, MI 49440

If service is the rent you pay for your existence on this earth, are you behind in your rent?
Robert G Allen

Friday, December 5, 2008

The perfect gift!

A Christmas gift suggestion for that friend or relative who
1. doesn't think there are wrongful convictions
2. believes that the judicial system works all of the time
3. wonders why you support a prisoner advocacy agency
4. has everything
5. loves a love story
6. needs encouragement and inspiration:


HFP will ship a signed copy of this book to the person of your choice, and will pay the postage, FREE OF CHARGE, as a thank you for a December contribution to Humanity for Prisoners. The recipient of the book will thank you, and so will we!

Doug Tjapkes, President
20 W. Muskegon Avenue
Muskegon, MI 49440

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Please remember the forgotten!


At a recent speaking engagement, I was confronted by a distraught mother. Her 16-year-old son, mentally challenged, was serving time in an adult facility of the Michigan prison system!

Many of you are parents and grandparents, and you and I would immediately recognize that prison is no place for the mentally ill! As our investigation expanded, we discovered more than half-a-dozen kids, some sentenced to prison as young as the age of 13.

-At least one had been raped!
-Most if not all were not getting proper medication!
-Some had been brutalized by prisoners and guards!
-One walked in raw sewage for a weekend because prison toilets backed up!

HFP rolled up our sleeves, and progress is being made. Perhaps that’s why Jeff Gerritt of the Detroit Free Press said of our organization,…the world is held together by the love of a very few people.

The average person can’t do much to offer humanity to prisoners. But HFP can!

At the end of the year, I ask you to consider a gift of

$41 for a roll of stamps to send Christmas cards to 100 prisoners
$82 for two rolls of stamps, so that we can reach 200 prisoners
$100 to help pay for Christmas cards
$150 to fund a visit to a prisoner
$200 to cover the cost of holiday greeting cards
$1,000 to bolster our ailing budget
$5,000 to enable us to finish the year in the black!

You may donate instantly on-line:! Or, you may send in your gift by mail.

We won’t be sending you a holiday greeting card, as much as we would like to. The money is being used for prisoner cards. Blessings and thanks to you in this meaningful holiday season!

Doug Tjapkes, President
20 W. Muskegon Avenue
Muskegon, MI 49440

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Death notice

Brett Hartman is a friend, we have always believed in his innocence, and have been communicating with him since he was referred to us by the Wisconsin Innocence Project in 2005. It's a sad day.

Ohio high court sets 2 execution dates

December 03, 2008 09:48 ESTCOLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The Ohio Supreme Court has set execution dates next year for two condemned inmates.

The court on Wednesday scheduled a March 3 execution for Jeffrey Hill, sentenced to death for killing his mother in Cincinnati in 1991 for money to buy crack cocaine.

The court also set an April 7 execution date for Brett Hartman, sentenced to die for stabbing a woman in Akron 138 times, then slitting her throat in 1997.

The state is once again executing inmates after the end of a de facto national moratorium on the death penalty that ended last April.

Ohio executed one inmate in October and another last month. There are 178 men and two women on the state's death row.

May God have mercy on us!


Year-end gifts

I realize that we're talking a lot about this, but our survival is not only important to us, it is terribly important to many who are in prison!

The Rev. Bob DeMoor is editor of THE BANNER, a publication of the Christian Reformed Church. In the December, 2008, edition his compelling editorial was entitled: LET THE LIFEBLOOD FLOW.

Just a few quick quotes:

When love stops circulating, the world dies.

Scripture reveals how much the world needed a kick-start to get love flowing again. World governments, institutions, and banks are not up to THAT task. They're not in the business of spreading love around. So they can't save this dying planet.

Whatever your investment portfolio or bank account looks like this Christmas, be sure to keep God's love circulating through your family, household, church, and community. Circulate it back to God as well, through giving to those in desperate need worldwide.
(underline mine)

Parents of some adult children have informed their offspring that instead of Christmas gifts this year, the money that would have been spent on presents is being contributed to HFP. Thanks for thinking of us!

Doug Tjapkes, President
20 W. Muskegon Avenue
Muskegon, MI 49440

To our faithful friends

This message was sent to me this morning by a dear friend. I forward it to the many people who quietly and faithfully support us throughout the year with the prayers and funds that we so urgently covet.

Subject: Emailing: Advent Calendar

Doug, this advent reading reminds me of Jesus' vision which has motivated and encouraged me through the years; it also reminds me of you, someone who faithfully follows after Jesus...

I remain with you, in the gentle grip of God's grace, Lou

Sawai Chinnawong, Old Testament and New Testament

The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

Copyright 2008 Christianity Today.