Showing posts from April, 2013

A heavenly chat

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to speak with a departed friend now in heaven? Well, that's the premise of a powerful play written about my dear friend Maurice Carter. He and I became like brothers as we fought alongside each other hoping to prove his innocence. The nine year battle with the state came to an end in 2004 when he was released from prison for medical reasons. He died just three months later. Award winning playwrights Donald Molnar and Alicia Payne of Toronto were captivated by the story, and have penned a moving stage play called JUSTICE FOR MAURICE HENRY CARTER. There's a small cast, and a small gospel choir. But the two main characters are Doug Tjapkes, here on this earth...and Maurice Carter, in heaven, having a discussion. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll get angry as you hear them review the ups and downs of that amazing battle for freedom. I bring all of this up because there will be four staged readings of the play

The widow's mite: mighty!

Last weekend the Board of Directors of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS held a retreat. In addition to the dramatic increase in requests for assistance, the board has many other important issues to tackle. Our facilitator, Matthew Downey of Grand Valley State University, pointed out something very interesting when discussing non-profit organizations like ours. The bulk of the support for these agencies does not come from large companies, millionaire donors, or giant foundations. The support comes from individuals, and the majority of those individuals are in low and middle income categories. They do it because they happen to believe in that cause. That was no surprise to me, because that's exactly the way it is for HFP. Here at HFP, it is virtually impossible to attract the attention of large foundations. Most don't want to do much for prisoners. And if they do, they'll consider a grant if we want to take on a new program, especially involving re-entry. Well, we don'

One roll of TP?

Marcia and I often get annoyed when we hear or read about a group of men deciding things about women. This has happened throughout history, both in government and in the church. But when a woman makes a decision against women...that baffles me. We complain a lot about how women are treated at the only prison for women in the State of Michigan, located in Ypsilanti. The code name is WHV, the HV standing for Huron Valley. It's a constant uphill battle there, but the bigger surprise is that the warden is a woman. Go figger! Anyway, here's the latest complaint that we're looking into, one that has come to us from three different independent sources within the prison: There's a new policy, we are told, that limits the female inmates to one roll of toilet tissue per week, regardless of sickness or good health, and one package of sanitary pads per month, regardless of menstrual regularity or difficulties. We keep checking, and so far no one has denied it. But what

Black and white

Many years ago I vowed that I would never go to Haiti again. I was there to help in making a movie about a mission project, and I was staying in a modest but very nice motel. It didn't look like our motels...more like an expansive home. We lived well, and food was provided. But the sad thing was that just across the street, not 50 feet from my deck, was squalor. People were living in abject poverty. The worst I had ever seen. Why should I live any better than these people, also created in the image of God? I couldn't take it. I wanted no more of it. Certainly things weren't that bad in my country. Years later, providential prodding put me right in the middle of the Maurice Carter case. And that drew me to the twin cities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. Shades of Haiti! Abject poverty on one side of the river. Opulence on the other side. 90 percent black in Benton Harbor. 90 percent white in St. Joe. The reason for these thoughts right now: I'm on


If you're getting sick of reading about the lack of heat at Michigan's prison for women, just imagine how sick of it inmates must be. A few days again we received this message; Been trying to get these return air blowers reset again. Found out that when they do generator checks and the power goes out and right back on, these blowers reset themselves and on high instead of at the set mark where everyone could at least sleep in their rooms. Third shift officers can't do rounds or counts cause everyone is layered up(again) and sleeping with their head under the blanket trying to stay warm. Can't sit in your room with the door closed or even open it is still freezing cold. Some lazy maintenance guy said it can't be adjusted. Liar. That is why throughout the years they keep getting readjusted. It will be one week tomorrow that we have all been freezing. It sure is inhumane treatment having outside cold air blow on your bed and body all day and all night long. Temps a