Showing posts from November, 2009

From the mom of a mentally ill teenaged prisoner

The Woodland Center Correctional Facility is located at Whitmore Lake, Michigan. This is the prison facility where the Michigan Deparment of Corrections lodges its most serious cases of mental illness. The office of HFP today received this message from the mother of a mentally ill teenager: I have learned some troubling things. When the prisoners are taken to the CRISIS UNIT at Woodland, they have just the clothes on their back for over a week; there is no quartermaster there to issue new clothes. On top of that, they don't have enough wash cloths for each prisoner, so they give them pillow cases! Is this only because these men come in such horrific conditions that no one cares whether they have a means to dry off? Even in other units, prisoners are given 1 wash cloth, which they have to use to shower and to wash up before meals and all other times. My son has not seen a wash cloth since he has been there. The mentally ill are at such a disadvantage when it comes to holding the pri

Benefit concert a success!

More than $2,000 was raised for HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS in a Sunday afternoon benefit concert, it was reported today by HFP President Doug Tjapkes. More than 250 people attended the concert at Ferrysburg Community Church yesterday afternoon, featuring music by the western Michigan male chorus HIS MEN, and Grand Rapids soloist Asonja James. HIS MEN is directed by John Mattson of Muskegon, and accompanied by Sherry Merz of Spring Lake. Two former prisoners told the audience how HFP had been instrumental in their release. Tjapkes explained the work of HFP, and said a current emphasis during this holiday season is helping those in prison who are physically and mentally ill. He pointed out that one in four Michigan prisoners is mentally ill. Dr. Dan Rooks of Holland, chairman of the Board of Directors, expressed thanks to an attentive audience for their willingness to support a 501c3 agency that serves as an advocate for prisoners. Tjapkes explains that the organization assists prisoners a


The impact of the Michigan Department of Corrections' slogan, posted in almost every prison facility, hit me again yesterday. I had agreed to be a prisoner's representative for a television-interactive parole board interview in Kingsley, Michigan---150 miles from here. It promised to be a relatively easy interview. The prisoner has already served his minimum, he has a clean record, and has a 14 year old terminally ill son back home. The parole board member should be empathetic on this one. I was told, in advance, that the interview was to be held Monday morning of this week. Last week the prisoner's family frantically contacted me to inform me that it was rescheduled for Wednesday. Then it was set back to Monday. Then it was finally scheduled AGAIN for Wednesday, at 8 AM. No explanation. I pause to stress that we take EVERY parole board interview seriously. A generous donor provided gasoline for the trip, our ever-ready prayer partners were notified in advance, and

Are cops exempt?

Recently a well-liked, veteran Grand Haven City police officer was arrested for using his position to obtain sexual favors from two women over the past several years. His sentence was light, compared to those we see for other sex offenses. He was also exempted from having his name placed on the Sex Offender Registry. In Michigan, as in many states, there are no categories or classifications in the sex registry. Whatever the offense, from a simple mistake to the worst case of child molestation, those convicted are lumped into one list. I sent this letter to the Grand Haven Tribune, which was published yesterday: Now let me get this straight. The name of a person who is arrested for indecent exposure for urinating in public is placed on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry, along with those of rapists and pedophiles. The name of a teenager who has consensual sex with his girl friend who is a juvenile is arrested for criminal sexual conduct, and his name is placed on the Sex Offender Re

We can't do it without you!

I sat at the kitchen table this morning with my bowl of low-carb cereal, and flipped on the computer to review my overnight messages. From the distraught mom of a 17 year old, mentally ill kid: He attempted suicide by hanging himself with a sheet. I learned it around noon after calling tons of people, but no one would tell me why. This young man was doing fine in a private institution, but then had serious problems, and was arrested again for parole violation. He's back in the Michigan prison system. I don't think he will be able to cope. I hope he can find the will to live, but I don't feel he has it in him anymore. He made it very clear he cannot live in this life anymore. It is so sad. I love this kid! I went to see him in prison, and when he was stabilized with proper medication he was a delight: a charming teenager with an award-winning smile. I bought him soda and candy bars. We laughed together, and hugged. His mother received a national award for working 2

Mental illness and prisons don't mix!

As messages continue to flood into the HFP office, I am especially troubled by cases involving mental illness. _____, (age 15!) called today and let me know he got a ticket and will probably be in the hole for 30 days, because he was hittin' the door to see when his school was. Now he can't have any calls or visits . _____,(age 17) has gone into a spiral and become manic. He had cut himself on purpose, has other injuries, and may need hospitalization. He is suicidal at times . _____,(age 23) was finally placed on meds, and I have never seen him more healthy looking and hopeful in the past 20 days. Yesterday I was informed that the prison doctor is cutting off all meds! He believes my son just has an anti-personality disorder and no pill can help him. I am willing to pay for the treatment myself if this is about money with the DOC. Unless you have had similar experiences, you cannot imagine the pain suffered by these family members! Please pray for them. And, as you think

Will your church be next?

This little church along the Lake Michigan shoreline wasn’t that much different than your church. Its people loved the Lord, loved to worship, sang hymns with gusto, heard preaching that was true to the Word, and did their best to love and care for one another. Years ago, getting a very subtle and almost un-noticed start in the church was support for a lonely, unknown, indigent, African American prisoner. A member of this church had started campaigning for the man’s release, claiming he had been wrongly convicted. Over the years the name Maurice Carter became a household word. His name was not only included in the prayers of church groups young and old, but in family devotions at mealtime. And so, by the time Mr. Carter was released from prison (after serving 29 years!), seriously ill and with only a few months remaining on this earth, he called the church his church. And before he died he slowly made his way to the pulpit on a Sunday morning to thank the people for their love and

Year-end gifts important to HFP!

IT’S TIME TO THINK ABOUT END-OF-THE-YEAR GIVING! Five years ago Maurice Carter died, after serving 29 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit. HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS was Maurice’s dream. He didn’t want another prisoner to suffer his nightmare of wrongful conviction and inadequate healthcare. Without Maurice our organization wouldn’t exist. I recently read “When praying, don’t give God instructions … just report for duty!” Well, that’s been our response here, and we thought you’d like to see the results. As you consider which organizations deserve your year-end attention, take a look at the back of this letter. No question about it, thanks to YOU, HFP has made an impact! And, on a shoestring budget! All organizations have impressive statistics. Our numbers are different: They wear faces! , For 5 years we’ve stayed true to our purpose of reaching out with compassion and helping to transform the lives of lonely and forgotten prisoners. And our work, unlike that