Showing posts from March, 2013

Bad news on Good Friday

It's Good Friday, and my preference might be to quietly meditate today on what Jesus did for me. But instead, I'm dealing with serious issues that are troubling some of the people he seemed to love the most: persons in prison. In fact, he likened the way we treat these inmates with the way we treat him. Problem #1 comes from the women's facility in Ypsilanti, where two of our friends---both model prisoners---have studied law and taken upon themselves to help other prisoners with their legal issues over the past decade. One particular issue was so troubling that the ACLU jumped into the fray and managed to get a policy change. But the former practice of strip-searching female inmates was so outrageous that it traumatized many women, especially those in prison who had been raped or sexually abused. And so these two experts in the field of law assisted in preparing a class action lawsuit against the State of Michigan. Today, one of the girls tearfully informed me b

Too many sad stories

My friend Chuck has heard enough of our sad stories. Each day, HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS sends out a short message by email to a loyal group of supporters. More often than not, the message is a direct quote from a prisoner telling of the grief and misery in that particular facility. Chuck thinks this probably is not the best way to raise money, and that perhaps we should tell more positive stories about what HFP is doing to make the lives of prisoners a bit brighter. It's a valid suggestion, and we'll certainly try to put a more positive spin on our messages. But the sad fact is that the tragic stories keep piling onto our desk daily, without fail. And just when you think you've heard it all, you hear a story even more outrageous. My reason for feeding these excerpts out each morning is to give everyone we know a taste of what we face day after day, week after week. In my speaking engagements, I am reminded time and again just how little people know about the in

This little light

Our son-in-law is a featured soloist in almost every HIS MEN presentation these days. Before he sings, he tells a story to his audience about a visit to Mammoth Cave National Park as a child. When all lights were doused in the cave, he explained that he could not see his hand in front of his eyes. But then a tour leader ignited one little cigarette lighter. Light from the tiny, flickering flame filled the entire cavern. He uses this story to introduce the next song: This Little Light. He sings the solo, backed up by the male chorus, and every audience finds it most pleasing. Especially in prison performances! In a 40th Anniversary concert by HIS MEN last Sunday, HFP Board Chairman Dan Rooks spoke right after that presentation, and he picked up on the same theme. He told about the darkness in prison...a darkness that you feel the minute you pass through the steel gate. And he asked the audience to just imagine the light that fills the room when HIS MEN goes behind bars t

The Pathetic Parole Board

Perhaps the single issue over which I feel strongest disagreement with the Michigan Parole Board is this whole matter of compassionate release...freeing inmates who are seriously ill. As I write this, I'm having a little private argument with the board in my mind. Here's why. I've been talking to Otto's wife, who has been so kind and patient. But she's about had enough. Otto has had triple bypass heart surgery while in prison. He has serious heart problems. Not only that, he has Hepatitis C, he can hardly breathe due to a serious case of COPD, he is diabetic and must be checked and treated several times a day. Besides that, he's 76 years of age. An old, seriously ill inmate, who could better be treated at home. Now one would think that this man would be a perfect candidate for release from prison. He's a parolable lifer, so that's not a problem. Nope. The Parole Board just gave him a flop. And if it costs $30,000 to care for an average pr

Maurice still touches lives

It has been a somber week. Exactly a week ago, Marcia and I watched a staged reading of the powerful play written by our friends Alicia Payne and Don Molnar: JUSTICE FOR MAURICE HENRY CARTER. Maurice died in 2004, just three months after his release from prison. Since that time, I have buried many of his memories. Last weekend, watching two performances, those memories came rushing back. I've been mulling them over in my mind all week. Perhaps the first question that might be asked is: So what's the big deal about the Tjapkes/Carter story? They set out to clear his name, and that never happened! So here Maurice and Doug finally partner up after Maurice has been in prison for 20 years, determined to prove his innocence to the courts and to the world. Well, over the next 9 years, we proved it to the world, and we found the real criminal in the case, but the courts wouldn't listen. Instead, Maurice got sick...deathly ill, received a compassionate release from p