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Showing posts from October, 2009

The spirit of Maurice Carter lives on!

Maurice Carter died just five years ago this weekend. He could not have been remembered more appropriately than at a Friday evening ceremony in Madison, Wisconsin. Some 200 people gathered in a University of Wisconsin auditorium to celebrate 10 years of service by the U of W Innocence Project. The case of Maurice Carter was one of the first to be taken on by the fledgling Innocence Project in 1998, and the bright-eyed students and eager professors began a six-year journey to free a man they came to know and love. Little did they realize that honesty and integrity are foreign to the judicial system in Berrien County, Michigan. They traveled, they made prison visits, they dug through dusty police files in a Benton Harbor basement, and over the years they prepared impressive briefs and documents, nearly two inches thick, that proved without doubt that Maurice was innocent. Never did they expect to encounter a judge who refused to review the material...who just shoved the stack of paper

HFP thanks God for women!

Many women quietly support and assist HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS in many ways, but a few prime examples come to mind this morning: THE MOTHER OF A YOUNG MAN WHO DIED IN PRISON DUE TO NEGLECT , who has no money to spare, has pledged the first $200 so that we can represent the late Maurice Carter at the Wisconsin Innocence Project's 10th anniversary observance in Madison on Friday. Is someone up to matching that pledge? A FORMER PRISONER has taken on a fund-raising project for HFP that failed both times in the last two years. She's making it happen because she KNOWS what we are doing! Its success is already guaranteed! AN EX-EMPLOYEE OF THE MICHIGAN PRISON SYSTEM is now working with me in the office to create harmony out of this discord. She understands our mission! This is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg! I would like to profile a long list of women, and the amazing things they are doing to remember those in prison as if they were together with them in prison. Th

First-of-the-week comments

From a supporter I'd like to see the Avalon as a sculpture piece installed at a conspicuous intersection in all its wrecked glory! Dedication: Wrecked but still functioning. And Ron Ross even, the personifier of coordinating such a masterpiece... It's curious how random events often converge into a whole. RIP, Avalon. Your glory lives on! From a prisoner, commenting on the work of HFP ...it is one thing to be compelled to help someone you know to be innocent. It is another to decide that what a person has done in their past is less important than who they are and how they are treated today. That is a huge leap that can only be made with a strong and pure heart, and I am so glad I have been given the opportunity to meet you. From an advocate for juveniles in the prison system If all the kids housed in the MDOC could be followed and supported by a church, what a positive impact that could make in their young lives! Your church in Ferrysburg supported Mr. Carter. Can you im

Avalon obit

Her name was Avalon, and despite her beauty and good manners, she was best known as the reliable wheels for a freedom fighter. Her first assignment: to free Maurice Carter. And she was up for the challenge. The route to Benton Harbor, Michigan, where a Carter committee met monthly, was soon memorized. But she boldly took on bigger challenges in Benton Harbor, finding a tiny church where an Innocence Project laid out its plans to a skeptical community and where a jailhouse snitch told how he framed Maurice. She prowled through the inner city, despite the presence of a permanent cloud of evil, searching for witnesses who might clear Maurice's name. No discriminator of persons, she humbly gave a ride to a drunken story-teller just as proudly as she transported Rubin Hurricane Carter to a prison to meet Maurice in person. Not the least bit worried about distance, she traveled to Canada, Chicago, and Madison if she felt it would help the cause. And when Carter was finally rele

A ray of sunshine peeping into a dark cell

Twelve persons from St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, have pledged to send at least one letter a month for at least one year to a needy Michigan prisoner! It's all a part of HFP s exciting new program: PROJECT WINDOW . It's a program designed to shed a ray of sunshine into the darkness of Michigan prison cells. We're walking before we run, but it is our hope that one day the project can be expanded to every state! The names of prisoners are carefully selected by HFP staff and volunteers. Protection of the letter-writer is a primary concern, so the writer uses only his/her first name, and the return address is simply the address of the participating church. If this seems like a good program for your church or civic organization, please contact HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS for more information: 616.935.0075. A third western Michigan congregation will consider the program in a meeting tomorrow evening. Doug Tjapkes, President

on seeking excellence

So I go to this Michigan prison (not a busy one) to visit a guy who doesn't even belong there. The staff members at the desk are very nice to me, I sign in, follow all the rules and move to my seat. One of the people at the desk makes contact with the unit where the prisoner is housed, and announces that the man has a visitor. I remain seated in the waiting room. I'm the only person there to visit a prisoner. 15 minutes later (I learned after the fact), the prisoner took his seat in the visiting room. He was the only inmate in the room. After 30 minutes, one kind soul at the front desk assured me that she would investigate this delay. After 30 minutes, the prisoner asked the guard in the visiting room where his visitor was. Turns out, nobody bothered to let the front desk know that the prisoner was up, and waiting for me! My friend and I sat alone, in separate rooms, for 30 minutes while staff members in the prison talked about other things. I finally made it into

October update

September, you responded to our appeals, and we had to ask ourselves Are we good stewards with your dollars? And prisoners answered with a resounding Yes! · A woman walked into freedom, her parole problems resolved: It couldn’t have happened without YOU…you were a God-send! · An ex-convict turned his life around after spending 11 years on a wrongful conviction, and told members of his church: I would serve the 11 years again if I knew that I could have THIS kind of life! · An African American prisoner , after hearing Doug speak, said: All my life I’ve had problems with white people, until now. I was blessed by your words! I praise God for your work! · An elderly inmate , abandoned in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, upon being informed by HFP that his case is now being reviewed by a top Canadian innocence project, broke down and wept: Thank God! You’re the first visitor I’ve had in five years! · A man who cared for the late Maurice Carter whe