Showing posts from 2010

holiday greetings

How many times have you heard someone express regret that a loved one is no longer with us? If only given one more opportunity, bridges would be rebuilt, friendships would be rekindled, arguments would be buried, hard feelings would be erased. I was given that rare opportunity in 2010. I am so aware of that this holiday season, because I nearly missed this holiday observance. Christmas had new and deeper meaning for me this year. My relationship with my wife, our extended family and especially our grandchildren has a richness even exceeding that which I had felt before. Prayers, thoughtful gestures, kind deeds and beautiful expressions of concern gave friendship a completely new meaning in 2010. And the unconditional love expessed by hundreds of prisoners, some of whom we have helped and many whose lot in life never improved despite our feeble efforts, has permanently etched a commitment in my heart to do my best, for as long as I have, for these children of God. Thank you for

Just when the load seems too heavy

God intervenes! I opened a letter from the mother of a prisoner this morning: Would love to spend a few minutes on the phone with you to let you know how you've changed my life and helped my son. I just finished a telephone conversation with a prisoner at whose side I testified when he had a Parole Board interview last August: I'm getting out next week, man! I can't thank you enough. I can't tell you what it means to me. I'm praying that God will keep you on the battlefield! My friend and gospel soloist Ben sings a spiritual to and for me that I don't always remember: I'll be all right!

Reviving thoughts of Timmy Souders

My mind is still reeling, after attending a small break-out session Saturday at the National Alliance on Mental Illness conference in Grand Rapids. The American Friends Service Committee graciously allowed me to speak, and I begged the mental health professionals to help those of us in prisoner advocacy as we try to deal with mental illness issues. But the testimony of persons with mentally ill loved ones in Michigan prisons was startling! -A teenaged mentally-ill lad locked up 30-45 days at a time in one cell, 24-hours a day, with nothing to do -a 34-year-old man strapped to the top of a steel bed with four-point restraints, lying, nude, in his own waste, for four days -A mentally ill, but savvy teenager, who knew that he should not be taking 14 pills when his regimen was 3 per day -The increasing use of pepper gas by guards to control all mentally ill, given them blast after blast, despite warnings of nurses -The storming of a mentally ill prisoner on his knees praying in a cell b

from the mouths of prisoners

I was sitting in the office staring out the window. Contributions to HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS just about dried up this month. And yet our successes and our joys seemed higher than ever. What is God planning? What am I supposed to think? Must our work with prisoners come to an end? The telephone rang. "Doug, it's Wayne." It took a few minutes to register. Wayne, age 57, has been in prison for 32 years, more than half of his life. I got to know him because he cared for my dear friend Maurice Carter, who was sick and dying in prison. Maurice was forever grateful. So am I. "Doug! I'm free! I got out! I don't even know how to act, after 32 years!" He was giddy with excitement! How could it not be contagious. As he asked about our situation, I had to confess that money was running out, and my enthusiasm was close behind. "You've got to boldly go to God," he said. He steered me to Hebrews 4:16: Let us then approach God's throne of grac

words that touch the heart

in one of the typical letters from prisoners that cross our desk each day...a message from Donald--- GOOD: I just want to let you know how much I appreciate all you have done for me and the other guys I have passed on your wonderful organization to and the help you gave them. Most of all, thanks for the gift of HOPE! People as yourself make a difference. SAD: I am making little progress in a very unjust justice system, but I have not given up. My overall health seems to be precarious at best. I continue to suffer from chest pain due to my marginal heart that the DOC ignores. In addition to the damage and fractures in my lower back, the cervical spin has begun to suffer from ruptured discs and spinal cord narrowing. Pain seems to be my life portion. My children and family have abandoned me. I still write them as often as I can get stamps. Please keep me and all the caged innocents in your prayers. Donald NOW A MESSAGE TO THOSE OF YOU WHO BELIEVE IN US: Will you please ke

Calls for help came in early today!

Matthew, 62, in prison for 32 years: I couldn't breathe, I could hardly walk, but the nurse lied on my visit form and said I was breathing good and walking fast. So I got no medical care. I went back the next day, and was arguing with the nurse when tbe doctor walked by. I called him over, and said "I've got a problem." The doctor listened to me breathe, looked at my ankles, then said to the nurse: "Call an ambulance!" I flat-lined in the ambulance, then was in the hospital for 12 days for congestive heart failure. Today I'm back in general population. I want to -seek a medical commutation -find an attorney who'll help me take legal action. HFP, WILL YOU HELP? Paul, 43, in prison for nearly 15 years: Even though I killed no one, my court-appointed attorney encouraged me to plea to second degree. I received LIFE anyway. My prison record is great, I have a wonderful family support group, but after 14 1/2 years here I can't st

Get outta that Capitol building!

“Until you and your fellow legislators get out of this building and go into the prisons to make surprise visits…you’re allowing a terrible situation to get worse…and you’re not going to be adequately representing those of us who elected you to public office!” That's what I told a group of Michigan state lawmakers this morning. I was testifying before the House Appropriations Sub-Committee on Corrections at the state capitol. “You can sit here and discuss dollars, and you can decide that corrections budgets should be increased or decreased…but you’re missing the point. We’re talking about people: people like your kids and mine!” I was the second person to testify in the packed hearing room. As President of HFP, I gave specific examples of prisoner abuse and lack of healthcare, especially among the mentally ill. I named names and specifically listed certain prisons where the problems are acute. Two mothers of prisoners made emotional appeals to the committee for improvement in

Mentally ill in an Ionia prision

Because we closed our mental institutions in Michigan, many of the mentally ill eventually wind up in the state prison system. Some of our sources say as many as 50% of Michigan's prisoners could be experiencing some type of mental illness! Of those who go to prison, a number of the serious mental cases are going to what is called Level Five of the Ionia Maximum Correctional Facility. The HFP office has been bombarded with letters of complaint within that division. Some of our sources are excellent, are willing to sign their names, and have collected affidavits from other courageous prisoners. Here's a sample of what they claim is going on, as received in a letter today: They use any excuse to use chemical agents on these guys...all are mental health caes and do not require such excessive use of force. A psychologist should speak with and be present whenever a mental health patient is to be gassed. Staff is not properly trained to deal with mental health patients. Thei

Mentally ill prisoners getting NO treatment!

MUSKEGON CHRONICLE, APRIL 8, 2010: A state-commissioned University of Michigan study says about 65% of prisoners with severe mental illness get no treatment behind bars. The Michigan Corrections Department hired the university to conduct the study, mandated by a 2007 law. Professor Brant Fries and his collaborators interviewed 618 inmates between May 1, 2008 and September 30, 2009, and reviewed prison records. Michigan had about 48,000 prisoners then, and about 9,700 had severe psychiatric illnesses. OK, Michigan voters, what are you going to do about it? HFP will continue to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. But we need your muscle! HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS P.O. Box 687 Grand Haven, MI 49417

On fighting the good fight

I've been leaning on you, AND your church to partner with us in helping prisoners. One little office cannot do it alone. We need you, your church, your civic club, your prayer circle. We need prayers and we need dollars so that we do not weaken. Good things are happening, and with you aboard they'll continue! Here's what the founder of the Salvation Army said many years ago: While women weep, as they do now, I'll fight; While children go hungry, as they do now I'll fight; While men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I'll fight; While there is a drunkard left, While there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, While there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I'll fight; I'll fight to the very end! General William Booth Are you and your church ready to fight? Let us hear from you. HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS P.O. Box 687 Grand Haven, MI 49417

Where does the money go?

When you make a tax-free contribution to HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS, how is the money spent? Excellent question! Here's what's been happening this week, and it's only Wednesday: Monday Parold Board interview for Gino. When our good friend Ron, who has been free for one whole year, informs us that his friend Gino has more than paid his dues with 30 years in prison, will make an exceptional citizen and deserves to be out, how can one turn down a request to participate in the interview? I drove two hours, waited in the prison four hours, spoke for two minutes, gave the prisoner a hug for 10 seconds, then drove two hours again. One full day, but a fruitful day! Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! But the office was closed for the day. Tuesday In addition to handling a steady flow of requests for help arriving Monday and Tuesday, we were able to complete two applications for the commutation of sentences for two worthy prisoners. A stack of unfinished appl

On help from churches

I was one of the narrators in our church's annual Maundy Thursday service last night. I was struck, once again, by how much our Lord was tortured and abused as a prisoner, prior to his execution based on a wrongful conviction. I and others had been trying to persuade someone in some church in one of Michigan's prison towns to help one poor child who is sad and alone in an adult facility. No success. Not one taker! Said a friend of ours who is an effective fighter for prisoners, and has a loved one who is incarcerated: I will continue knocking on doors to try to find someone who will take this kid under his/her wing. This is really sad to me that we can't get churches jumping on board! They send money all over the world to support causes they don't even know about, but cannot take on caring for someone in their back yard?? Sorry, I have developed an attitude about much of this. I was raised in a very legalistic faith-based setting, and have struggled much with

Maundy Thursday Musings

"How did the visit go?" I was anticipating positive information when I asked the question of a good friend and wonderful attorney. Mr. T. had volunteered to visit a juvenile in one of the prisons in Adrian, Michigan, after we shared a story with him. Randy is 16, and he spends 23 hours of each day in a cell, alone. HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS wants to do something about this situation. Step one was to have an attorney verify what's going on. "I came home very depressed." Just what I didn't want to hear. "He's in segregation for his own safety, so that he won't get hurt, either by adult prisoners or by prison guards. For his one hour of recreation each day, he's allowed to go out into the yard, but because he's a juvenile he must be alone. Day after day, he see's no one. "I asked him if he gets visitors. He looked up. I was his first visitor since he was incarcerated last October! "I said, 'Doesn't your mom

On returning a small favor

So I thought I was just doing this prisoner from California a small favor. In a letter to HFP, he asked for the names of some Innocence Projects in his area. While we spend almost all of our time on Michigan cases, we try to be kind to every prisoner who contacts us And, as is our policy, we sent a personal letter and some contact information from our data base to Humberto. Like the one leper who returned to thank Jesus, Humberto wrote back. These next few lines, I hope, will bring a smile to your day: I am diligently working in the translation of -your pamphlet -your mission statement -and your devotions booklet WHY? into Spanish! It will take some time, but you will receive it from me. A small gesture of gratitude---since my funds are scarce---for the help that you have provided. Gracias! (Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world!) Proverbs 11:25 "...whoever refreshes others will be refreshed."

As we begin Holy Week,

two true stories of violence in Michigan prisons. Last weekend, the chairman of our board of directors was scheduled to speak at a prison in Ionia. Said Dr. Dan Rooks: I didn't present because there was a lockdown. One of the prisoners was beaten and stabbed severely---someone said all of his facial bones were broken and he is in a coma in the hospital. Seven prisoners were placed "in the hole" and an investigation is underway. Last weekend, the mother of a prisoner with ADD and other mental issues, age 34, called me: First my son was hit over the head with a mop stick. Then some prisoners attacked him and poured boiling liquid (some say water, vaseline and bleach) on him and down his throat. He had to be airlifted to a hospital, where he was in a coma for 30 days. We were told state police officers have found the offenders. Some 2,000 years ago: They spit on him (Jesus---a prisoner), and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. Matthew 27:30

On death row in Texas

I relived a horror story in Texas yesterday. I was with Hank Skinner yesterday morning during his final hours at the infamous Polunsky Unit (Death Row) in Livingston, Texas. I pressed my hand against the window that separated us (no contact visits allowed, even at the time of death!), and I prayed over a squawky telephone as he placed his hand on the other side of the window. I visited him in the Death House, a prison unit in Huntsville, Texas, where the condemned man may meet briefly with his spiritual advisor. We talked Studebakers and drag racing, and we laughed. I read Psalm 23, and we prayed. We prayed for a favorable decision from the Supreme Court. Actually, I was in my comfortable office in Grand Haven, Michigan. But yesterday's story brought back all of the painful memories of a similar experience in Texas exactly three years ago. I was with my friend Charles Anthony Nealy, who very likely was wrongly convicted, and who would have been 43 years of age in just a fe

The weekly roller coaster

Our hearts soared this week: Michael caught a parole! He says it couldn't have happened without you. He gets out next month! But here in the office of Humanity for Prisoners, we know better than to start celebrating. More messages trickled in: -John called...he could barely get the words out. He received a letter from the Parole Board indicating his application was forwarded to the Governor's office. We know that this means they have not recommended commutation. -I just got a call from Sandra. She didn't get a public hearing. The recommendation has gone straight to the Governor. It sounds like bad news. - I just wanted to let you know about the parole decision for Joshua. They gave him a 12-month flop. I am really having a hard time holding it together. We have been standing by these families and friends, advocating for these prisoners, so when their hearts break, ours break also. They become like family to us. To the mothers, fathers, friends,

THIS is what bothers me!

It bothers me when I hear that some of the children in prison are mentally ill. It bothers me when I hear that some of the mentally ill children are actually placed in adult prison facilities. It bothers me when I hear that other prisoners tease, torment and injure these children. It bothers me when we receive reports that prison staff members also mistreat these children, and not only mistreat them, but sexually tamper with them! (James Bell said: Our justice system is one of the few unaccountable systems in the country. It doesn't make decisions based on best practices...or in the best interest of the young people and families involved. The decision makers can administer this misery and not take any responsibility for the outcome.) BUT WHAT REALLY BOTHERS ME is when we encounter mentally ill children in prison with no advocate . In our most recent case the lad was injured, and so now he has been placed in segregation in an adult prison for his own protection (an exceptio

Lenten story #3, the hungry

As we work with prisoners, we are also mindful of all less fortunate people, including the hungry. A dear friend who works at my side as an intern, drawing unemployment and struggling to stay ahead as a single mom, decided to window-shop at a local mall. Her attention was drawn to two young teenaged girls, who were apparently troubled while conversing with an older man. Sensing that tension was in the air, Cindy walked over there, and the man walked away. "Are you girls OK?" "Yes, but kinda freaked out. the guy wanted $2.50 for some food." Cindy looked in her pockets, and found $1.50. "I have a dollar," said one of the girls. Cindy walked over to the man who, she said, was obviously mentally challenged. "I'm so sorry," he said, "I didn't mean to scare those girls. I'm hungry. The half-way house where I live didn't serve breakfast this morning. The lady just left without preparing any food." Cindy gave him th

Lenten Story #2, the homeless

Working with prisoners every day makes me feel very close to the homeless. Many times they're just one step away from going to prison. And so this little story is not about humanity for prisoners, it's about humanity for people. Thanks to frequent flyer miles, Marcia and I have been able spend a few days in Hawaii with our oldest son, his wife, and our two little grand-guys. I am always touched when I see a simple act of kindness, especially where one might least expect it. I was sitting in a little pizza joint yesterday, next to two young men who---based on the clothing they were wearing and the electronic toys they were playing with---had few money problems. They nibbled away at a pizza, and stopped at the half-way mark. "Do you want me to put the rest in a box," asked the lady behind the bar. "Naw, we're just going for a walk down the beach." "Then do me a favor," the bartender persisted. "I'll box up the pizza, and when you r

Lenten story #1, fasting

I have friends who have given up chocolate, or dessert, or Diet Coke for Lent. Barb and Godwin have a different idea, and I like it better. They chose to give up some of their spare time and spare change. Barb and Goddie read a story written by HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS telling of an indigent single mom in the Michigan prison system, who had not seen year 7-year-old daughter for over a year. The little girl is being cared for by her grandparents. Their inner-city home is 150 miles away from the prison. Because of financial limitations, prison visits were out of the question. Mr. and Mrs. O, upon hearing the story, made a Lenten decision to contribute some of their precious, personal time. They live near the prison, so that was not a problem. The challenge was the 150-mile one-way drive in uncertain Michigan weather! With HFP serving as the "middle-man," arrangements were finally made for Godwin to drive from Ann Arbor to Benton Harbor to pick up the grandparents and the ch

Fridays can be unpleasant!

Today's stack on my desk was particularly discouraging: A worried mom informed us that her imprisoned son, already depressed following the death of his only child, is now being placed in a compromising situation where it appears he'll get written up no matter which we he turns, and he has done nothing! A mentally ill juvenile wrote to inform us that he has been placed in segregation (private cell 23 hours a day, one hour of freedom) for his own protection because he's in an adult facility! If you or I put a teenager in a cage 23 hours a day, we'd be arrested! A courageous prisoner in a unit for the mentally ill sent affidavits: ... they do not know how to deal with mentally ill patients. They simply say they're disruptive and abuse them, ignore them, or place them in restraints of all kinds! They leave some of these guys there for days and in their bodily fluid waste! But then, just when I'm ready to put my fist through a wall, a former prisoner whom we h

Little can be much!

I was reading in Psalm 41 this morning: "Blessed are those who have regard for the weak..." Mr. P., a Hispanic prisoner, has been communicating with us. For two years he couldn't find his children. Through our computer search we found a relative who led him to his daughter. Things are getting better with contacting my children! My oldest girl has got me in touch with my older son. Things are starting to fall in place! I guess a little prayer really works. When I get some pictures I'll send them for you to see my little people. It's an honor to know of someone with such compassion and conviction who is an advocate for prisoners as myself, with no one to speak for them. Having you and your organization on my side makes a big difference. Thank you so much, man! And we thank YOU. We can't help Mr. P. without help from you!

Are you feeling alone today?

Then let me tell you about the plight of Ms. D, whom we are helping to file a commutation application. When you seek release from prison, you must first assure the state that you have a place to live: This probably sounds pitiful, Doug, but I have nowhere to go when I leave here! My mother and oldest brother are deceased My sister chose her husband over our relationship My surviving brother is a drug addict The friends I had when I came to prison slowly faded away The ones I have now are ex-felons and have gone home. Maybe I'll have to go to a shelter. Says Robert Montgomery: “Home, the spot of earth supremely blest, A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest” Unless you don't have one.

Spencer Hassevoort: a real champion!

When Spencer Hassevoort agreed to race his snowmobile for charity, who would have guessed? The results are in! The youngster from Spring Lake, Michigan, would drive his vintage snow machine on two Saturdays in January, and two Saturdays in February...three events per Saturday in the BEVRA sanctioned races at Lakeview, Michigan: Stock A, Stock B, and Super Stock. We began taking pledges per race, many HFP contributors showing a willingness to double their money if he captured a first place trophy. And so he went after first place trophies with a vengeance! Saturday #1, two first places and one second Saturday #2, two first places and one second then he ratcheted up his performance! Saturday #3, three first place trophies! Saturday #4, three first place trophies! All this from a 12 year old lad, racing in an adult world. Our congratulations to Spencer for a sensational performance, and for his generosity in helping HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS! Our thanks to those

Late pledges accepted!

Last minute pledges for tomorrow's three snowmobile races by 12 year old Spencer Hassevoort are still being accepted by email. We're within a few hundred of $3,000! Can we hit it? Is there a brave soul among our premium supporters willing to double all money raised? With that we would almost meet budget for February! Thanks for being there for Spence, and for us! We'll have race results as soon as we get them! Good luck to our champ!

What suggestions would YOU have?

I offered to help Chuck in filing his commutation forms, but told him he needed a place to stay, a place to work, support from family members, and perhaps a letter of support from a minister. The church I belonged to has been closed since 1984. There's no one at the job I had who would hire me. My mother is 97 years old and oldest son stays with her, and he told me to stay where I'm at! My other son and my daughter don't want to have anything to do with me. My ex-wife sold our house. I had two brothers, but both died. No uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces or nephews. If you were going to try to help this man in getting a fresh start, what would you tell him? Where would you send him? What would you tell the Parole Board?

The last race

Our champion snowmobile racer, Spencer Hassevoort, age 12, makes his final appearance of the season this coming Saturday, February 20. He'll be participating in three races at the BEVRA sanctioned event in Lakeview, Michigan. For the second year in a row, he's racing for charity...allowing us to take pledges on his three races. It's your opportunity to demonstrate support for this fine young man's efforts, and for the on-going work of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS! If you agree to pledge $10 each if he ends up in the winner's circle (1-2-3), you will contribute up to $30, tax exempt, to HFP. If you agree to double the amount for every first-place trophy he wins, chances are you'll make a donation of $50-60, if past races are any indication. Email your pledges...I'll keep the records. Go, Spencer!

Words of encouragement

This was sent to us by one of our friends this morning: Jesus lives in the forgotten. He has taken up residence in the ignored. He has made a mansion among the ill. If we want to see God, we must go among the broken and beaten and there we will see him. Max Lucado We're down in there, thanks to YOU , so I'm sure we'll bump into Him!

Another day at the office

No money arrived in the mail again today. But, here's what did arrive: Letter #1 I was denied my food trays in the mental health unit Inmate F cut his wrist due to mental illness Inmate L cut himself, too Inmate A was covered in his own feces for more than 2 weeks because we're talking there is retaliation Letter #2 The staff members in this mental health unit are not trained to handle the mentally ill they tie them down put them in restraints allow them to mutilate themselves enough to cause death or serious harm Letter #3 I am fully aware that I can expect retaliation from a place that confines a mentally ill person longer in segregation denies vital medication writes arbitrary and capricious misconduct tickets ties a person down on the bed for a duration of time. The reporter in me says that all of this may not be true. The prisoners whom we know, and who dare to speak

HFP: Expanding on the internet!

HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS is taking a major plunge into the world of the internet. In doing so, we apologize for temporary inconvenience as the web sites are redesigned and reworked. Meanwhile, we are also beginning a regular series of broacasts on the internet. Our first commentary dealing with the subject of mental illness in prisons can be heard at: Follow the instructions: Push click to start. Your comments will be appreciated.

A triple-crown winner!

He did it! Our 12-year-old snowmobile racer, Spencer Hassevoort, captured first place trophies in all three events in which he participated Saturday! Spencer, who is racing for charity this year, had his best Saturday yet: Stock A, first place; Super Stock A, first place; Stock B, first place! Thanks to all who pledged. through a Your contributions are tax exempt, and will help us through a difficult first quarter. The final snowmobile race of the season is coming up on February 20. Will Spence be ready? Will you? Congratulations, young man, from HFP, from HFP supporters, and from many, many prisoners! (in picture below, Spencer's sled number is 122)

This is why Spence races for us,

And this is why your pledges, your gifts, your support, your prayers are so important. Mr. P. is really thanking YOU! Doug, I thank you a bunch for the day-to-day inspiration you and your organization are providing. It's an honor to know of someone as yourself with such compassion and conviction who is an advocate for prisoners as myself with no-one to speak for them. Having you and your organization on my side makes a BIG difference. Thank you so much, man! Mr. P

Some things never change

Here's a quote from Jimmy Hoffa in his day: I can tell you this on a stack of Bibles: prisons are archaic, brutal, unregenerative, overcrowded hell holes where the inmates are treated like animals with absolutely not one humane thought given to what they are going to do once they are released. You're an animal in a cage and you're treated like one. Today with your help, we're going to try to improve things, one prisoner at a time. Pray for HFP.

What would you suggest?

So you're sitting in my office. What advice do you have for this guy? Mr. G. is a sex offender who was recently released into group housing, as his family has disowned him. He is about to run out of the MPRI housing placement. He has been working for a temp agency in Detroit, but the work isn't steady. I know he has some college as well. He is quite discouraged, because if he doesn't get any income or another place to live, they told him they will put him in a county jail for 30 days, and then plug him back into the system for another go-around. He has been actively seeking employment and housing opportunities. The Alpha House in Grand Rapids had no space. If you aren't able to help Mr. G. at this time, please keep him in your prayers. He is barely treading water, and the system wants to put him back if he fails out here. Thank you for your time and all you do for everyone! And this time we don't know what to do.

It's time to talk

I want to tell you something. There are many reasons why we sponsor a fund-raising project that may seem like it has more fun than substance. Are we exploiting a situation with a young lad who just happens to be one of the finest snowmobile racers in western Michigan, or is there good reason for it? Sure, we -like the extra publicity that shows up, even on sports pages -love the fun of watching a youngster pass the adult racers at the finish line -very much appreciate the pledges from people who want to support this lad & HFP BUT Here's why we go to these unusual efforts to keep dollars coming into our coffers. On January I received a letter from a woman in prison who had given up. Diane had been locked up for 20 years, claiming innocence, and she felt her life had come to an end. She not only had given up on hope, she couldn't even see the glitter of a candle at the end of the tunnel. Said she: Some part of me gave up hope long ago, and I wonder if

Spencer: A winner!

Spencer Hassevoort may be only 12 years of age, but he’s number one in the rankings at the sanctioned BEVRA snowmobile races on Tamarack Lake, in Lakeview Michigan! Hassevoort races vintage snowmobiles, in an adult world, and for the second year in a row he has agreed to be fund-raiser for a local prisoner advocacy agency: HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS! The season began on January 16, with young Hassevoort, of Spring Lake, participating in three events for HFP. He won two first place trophies, and took second place in the other race! On Saturday, January 30, he duplicated the feat: two firsts, and one second ! Doug Tjapkes, President of HFP, said that the race ace has already raised $900.00 for HFP, and there are two more events this season, on February 6 and February 20. He said it is hoped that Hassevoort’s efforts can top last year’s total of nearly $2,000.00. Pledges for next Saturday’s event can be emailed to the office. The youngster is entered in three classes: Stock A, Stock B

A warm story to end a cold week!

FROM AN INDIGENT, FEMALE PRISONER WHOSE FAMILY LIVES IN THE INNER CITY: I wish I was home with my child, Doug. I want to see my little girl so bad it hurts. As of February 2nd it will make a year I have not seen my baby. I don't know how tall she got, how big she got. Doug, do you know of any kind of group that helps bring family members to prison? Ms. C FROM A WOMAN WHO LIVES IN A COMFORTABLE NEIGHBORHOOD: We would be happy to help with this. My husband is retired and would be glad to drive to their city (150 miles one way!) and take them (grandparents and child) to the prison. They are welcome to stay the night with us if they would feel OK doing that! Ms. B Yes, miracles continue to unfold in this office, day after day! Can we claim any credit? Not a lick. God does the planning! You help pay the bills! Can you imagine the excitement and the gratitude as we connect the dots of this little episode? Your crooked stick, Doug Tjapkes HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS P.O. Box 6

Taking pledges for a winner!

All right, boys and's snowmobile racing time again, that fun-time to watch our favorite ace on the oval track, hoping to win dollars for HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS! Spencer Hassevoort, age 12, will be participate in three events this coming Saturday, January 30, in the BEVRA sanctioned vintage snowmobile races (for adults!) at Lakeview, Michigan. How much will you pledge per race, if he wins first, second or third place? Will you double the pledge if he wins FIRST? Email your pledge to me, after reading last night's feature, written by the Trib's fine Sports Editor Matt DeYoung. All contributions are tax exempt!

Some days you win!

Mr. T, a Latino prisoner who claims his wife must have fallen off the earth, who cannot find his grown kids, and who resides in the Michigan Prison System, was caught in recent transfers due to the closing of a prison. He went to Carson City, then he went to Adrian, then he was returned to Carson City, and finally he ended up in Coldwater. Through all of this his belongings were lost: a duffel bag containing all his possessions. But the most important thing in that duffel bag was his legal work. For the past year he had worked, by himself, on a motion for a new trial because he had no money. That motion was ready to be filed in January, along with all supporting documents. Then all were lost. Prison officials advised that their search came up empty. They were sorry. When he called HFP, he explained that he had no one. He has been a friend of ours for some months, and he said in exasperation: "You're all I have!" We took that seriously, and utilizing the experi

The week ended well!

It's been a tough week, but this office was the target of a ray of sunshine late this afternoon! Remember the Bible story of the ten lepers? Jesus healed all ten, but one came back to say "thank you." Well, Cindy and I have been battling one unpleasant situation after another this week. Man's inhumanity to man is astonishing! But an hour ago, I received a telephone call from a prisoner. All she wanted to do was say "thank you" for being at her side for a parole board interview. She had needed a friend. We were there. She has been behind bars for 20 years . Just a few minutes ago, another telephone call, this one from a prisoner who was freed ten days ago. All he wanted to do was say "thank you!" We had been supporting him in his efforts before the Parole Board for the past couple of years. He had served 20 years behind bars. His brothers and sisters prepared a meal of fried chicken for him, with chocolate cake for dessert: just about hea

A song about prisoners

I was worshiping with friends in a large Grand Rapids church last Sunday. The praise song wasn't familiar to me. Then these words popped up on the screen, and I thought: They're singing about prisoners ! There are no strangers There are no outcasts There are no orphans of God From the song ORPHANS OF GOD Joel Lindsey/Twila LaBar

He won!

If someone said that Spencer Hassevoort, 12, son of Mr. and Mrs. Scott Hassevoort, of Spring Lake, was a fund-raiser for HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS, it might raise a few eyebrows. But that’s not all about young Hassevoort that raises eyebrows. He races vintage snowmobiles, in an adult world, and he has a garage full of trophies! Last year, he agreed to accept pledges on behalf of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS, a 501c3 advocacy agency based in Grand Haven. Hassevoort and his family attend the same church as HFP President Doug Tjapkes. In 2009 he raised nearly $2,000 for the organization, winning either first or second place every time he raced! This year he repeated the offer. He races a 1978 Yamaha 300 Enticer on an oval track on Tamarack Lake near Lakeview, Michigan. The events are sponsored by Big Extreme Vintage Racing Association (BEVRA). The first races were held Saturday, January 19, and he participated in three categories: Stock A, Stock B, and Super Stock A. And he won big: Stoc

Starting a new week with MLK!

What better way to start the week, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, than by using his famous words, written while in prison! Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Martin Luther King Jr. , Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963US black civil rights leader & clergyman (1929 - 1968)

Here's why we still need YOU!

From a prisoner who dares to speak up, give his name and ID# regardless of the fear of retribution: Here's what I have seen here: -I've seen COs (Corrections Officers) jumping an inmate for no reason. -If you ain't heard, they had an inmate just die about two weeks ago right across from me. They state that he died in his sleep, but the things I've seen around here...I don't believe it! -They have a prisoner that locks down the hall from me. They have him in his cell butt naked, without any blankets or mattress or clothes. He's eating his own human waste to have something to eat. The police talk about he's not getting this or that. They don't bring him out of his cell to shower. -They jumped on a prisoner that locks next door to me about three days ago. They messed him up pretty bad. He states he thinks his nose is broken and that he's hurting all over. The nurses here haven't been to look at him since that happened. -They have another pris

Thoughts on Haiti

I have been in Haiti 3 times. The first time was during the Papa Doc regime, with rifles pointed at us at various checkpoints, as I served as accompanist for two Christian singers. The second time was in the 70s, when our singing group HIS MEN reached out to Haitians in many areas of the mainland, as well as on the island of LaGonave. We ministered in places were many others chose not to go. The third time was a decade later, when I assisted a religious group on a film-making project. The members of HIS MEN and their wives stayed in the Hotel Montana, which we are hearing so much about in the news. We walked and traveled and sang in many of the places you are seing as reports of the earthquake continue to unfold. I loved the Haitians, and my heart broke every time I went into that country. How was it that I was privileged to live in such a beautiful area, while these people were born and raised in such horrid conditions, with so little hope for the future? And yet they made the bes

There but for the grace of God....

Dear Doug: I am not sure whether or not you remember me. I called you a while back to inquire about my friend D----, who wishes to file commutation papers and (prayerfully) sit before the parole board and by the grace of God walk out of prison in the near future. Then, just as soon as I was to read your book (SWEET FREEDOM) that you so graciously sent me, was given a very hard punch in the gut with a rather large dose of reality! Both of my sons were arrested on some charges that sent one to prison for four years, while the other is still awaiting his sentence. It was the day of their arrest that I also learned that they were both heroin addicts. I have meant to be in touch with you so many times over the last two and one half months, but unfortunately have allowed myself to be consumed by this. However, I am praising God and thanking Him that they were arrested and jailed; called the detective to thank him. (I lost a son in 2004 to suicide.) I was so grateful that God saw past t

Spencer races for HFP again!

OK, Gang, it's time for our annual snowmobile fun! Our champion fund raiser, Spencer Hassevoort, has reached the ripe old age of 12 now, he's added another 10 pounds, but he's still ready to take on the adult racers in the annual BEVRA (Big Extreme Vintage Racing Association) competition at Lakeview, Michigan. Spencer has agreed to raise urgently needed funds for HFP again this year, after winning an armful of trophies against the big guys last year. There will be only four events, so we'll take them one at a time. In each Saturday event, Spencer will participate in three oval races: Stock A, Stock B, and Super Stock. Here's the fun way that you can demonstrate your support for this boy wonder, and at the same time contribute to HFP: You pledge $____ per race, IF Spencer lands in the winning circle (1st, 2nd or 3rd place). So if you pledge $20, and he ends up in the top three each time, you make a $60 tax-exempt contribution to HFP. Here's another challenge:

Free at last!

My friend Clark steps into the free world tomorrow. He'll be welcomed by family and friends. What an occasion! He has spent the past 20 years behind bars, and he's determined---with God's help---to start a new life. I can't be there to welcome him...something I very much regret. The last time I drove to a prison for such an event, I was the privileged one to hold the front door open as she walked out. As we stood on the front driveway, in the cold, in freedom, we hugged. At 9 tomorrow, say a prayer for Clark. Thank God for his new opportunity, and pray that he makes the most of it. Experience this just once, and you'll see how it makes everything we do worth while! HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS P.O. Box 687 Grand Haven, MI 49417

All in a week's work!

THE FIRST WEEK OF THE NEW YEAR Sunday Tweak, review and pray over prepared comments for an important Parole Board interview tomorrow! Monday Make long drive to Ypsilanti in treacherous conditions to be at the side of a woman who has spent 20 years in prison for a crime she did not commit, in a PB interview. HFP spoke on her behalf, God was there, and she and I wept! Tuesday Catch up on pleas from prisoners, their families and friends---31 of them which arrived by mail, email and telephone! Wednesday Work on four pages of constitutional issues raised by a dozen inmates on their way to freedom, now in a half-way house. Assistance and answers were provided thanks to our crack team of legal eagles who assist us below the radar! Thursday AM Take immediate steps to deal with three serious reports of prison guard abuse, two of them involving mentally ill inmates. We work hard on these! Thursday PM Despite severe winter weather, make a long-overdue prison visit to a

"Enough," I say. "Enough!"

I've already had my belly full of it for today! Messages to us from other prisoners or parolees... From a Michigan half-way program for some being released : Mr. L is diabetic, didn't get his mandatory 30-day supply of insulin upon his release, and ran out 12 days after arriving here. The state finally agreed to pay for 30 more days. He'll run out again by mid-month, and medical needs are getting ignored . From a mid-Michigan prison: Two mentally ill prisoners are being abused by guards: left naked in their cold cells because they are deemed a suicide risk, not even mattresses or blankets; denied food (guards claim the prisoners refused to take it); and using up to two cans of gas on these guys when the officers know they are mentally ill! From a northern-Michigan prison: A guard grabbed him by the scrotum, and when he lowered his arms he was thrown to the floor, handcuffed, and then had his head slammed against the cement, scarring his face. This prisoner, who has cer

New year, old stories

And they're already stacked up on our desk: My mentally ill grandson, age 15, is being sexually harassed by a prison guard. This is the second time: first a woman, now a man. Can someone help him? My brother has terrible cholesterol problems, but the prison system refuses to treat him. He filed grievances, and that resulted in lost yard time for him. Can someone help him? My friend is serving 10-40 because an ex-girlfriend persuaded her three children to tell stories about him. He never was a child molester, and is not now. Is there no justice? Can someone help him? Humanity for Prisoners is here to help in 2010. We thank you for being here to help HFP in 2010! HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS P.O. Box 687 Grand Haven, MI 49417

Our wish to you for the new year

We use this Franciscan Benediction as our wish for you in 2010: May God bless you with easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless you with injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace. May God bless you with shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to their their pain into JOY. And may God bless you with enough believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you DO what others claim cannot be done. Amen