Showing posts from June, 2013

500 too many

Do you suppose government officials in Texas are proud today? Their state has just completed its 500th execution. Kimberly McCarthy, a woman of color, was 52. I caught myself wondering why I was feeling so somber yesterday, and then it dawned on me that Dr. David Schuringa of Crossroad Bible Institute had sent out a press release that one of their graduates was being executed. Why, you may ask, does that hit me so hard? Well, a little background is in order here. In 2006 a prisoner with whom I had established correspondence on death row in Texas asked me if I would be his spiritual adviser at the time of his execution. It wasn't high on my list of priorities, but I agreed to do it. Until you go to death row, hear the horror stories, watch the way the inmates are treated, see the indifference among staff, feel the pain of family and friends, and experience the feeling of total helplessness...not until then should you express strong opinions about the death penalty. To t

Blood sugar blues

Statistics show that about 8% of Americans suffer from diabetes. My guess is that the number also holds true in prison. Michigan usually has around 45,000 people in prison, so do the math. We have many diabetics in prison, and from the increasing number of reports we are getting, many claim inadequate treatment. Many diabetes suffer from a condition called neuropathy, a painful foot problem that requires special shoes. Michigan's prison system decided on doing away with the the line of doctor-ordered shoes, and use prison labor to make their own. From all reports, it's not working. One inmate reports he has gone through 7 pairs of these inferior shoes in six months. The sizes aren't right, and they rip apart at the seams. Because of these problems he's had numerous sores on his feet. Another report indicates that the medical care system has been switching to different and less costly types of insulin. It's something that we cannot confirm, and our medic

Wrongly convicted? You'd better listen!

I'm especially reminded of those words this week. That's what Rubin Hurricane Carter told me back when he and I were working to free the late Maurice Carter. The myth seems to be that all prisoners claim innocence, which is not true. But some protest their innocence the rest of their lives, and those are the ones that we must listen to, according to Rubin. HFP is not an Innocence Project, but we do try to find help for those inmates who seem to have compelling evidence of a wrongful conviction. We were heartened in two cases this week. David, who has claimed innocence from day one and who has now exhausted all court avenues, remains in prison for life. BUT, he and I found a glimmer of hope when a retired state police officer, now on the Parole Board, believed him and recommended that I help in attracting the attention of an innocence project. A retired judge visited him this week, as a volunteer assisting two innocence organizations. After a two hour discussion, he

F is for father; F is for forgiveness

I heard a television commentator discussing fatherhood this week, as he wished all of the fathers in his audience a Happy Father's Day. He said that, as a father, he liked a quote from Henry Ford: Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. He was right on the money. I love being a father, but I'm the first to admit that I made a lot of mistakes along the way. I hope that I kept correcting them, when I started over again...with more intelligence. I'm blessed to have a wonderful relationship with my kids and our grandchildren, which means that they all are forgiving people. They don't have a perfect dad or grandpa. I'm especially mindful of that this year, because in recent days I had to be the message carrier between an elderly prisoner and his adult son. The father is a friend. I do not know the son. Sadly, it didn't turn out well. The two were reportedly very close at one time, but some demons in the father

A few rotten apples

Every once in a while, I need a reality check in this business of working with prisoners. Today I am reminded, again, that there is a reason for prisons, and there are reasons why some people belong there. When my nephew showed interest in hiring a former prisoner in his company, I hesitantly encouraged him to go ahead. At first, it appeared the business decision was a good one. Sales were up. Things were looking good. Then came the bad news: A telephone caller asked for a personal meeting, and it turns out the former inmate's dark past is also part of his present life. Things are not good, he's been behaving inappropriately, and there's every reason to believe he's going to go right back where he came from. That makes me so sad. The man had a chance to do things right. It reminds me of our efforts to help Ronny some years ago. We got him out, got him a place to live, got him going in a business of his own. He would be at my side to speak in churches...

Medical un-care

Years ago my friend David called me from prison just to chat. He told me that before this telephone call he had been reading to a prisoner. I asked him what that was all about. He explained that the man had recently had eye surgery. because one of his eyes was bad. Problem was the surgery was done on the wrong eye, and now the guy couldn't see. "And they call us the criminals," David said. For some time I thought that was an isolated incident, but now I'm not so sure. The HFP office is receiving atrocious reports daily. A woman reported that a friend of hers in Huron Valley had cancer surgery and a very devastating bout of chemo therapy, only to be informed later that she never had cancer. My informant said the state had been getting her friend and another prisoner with the same last name mixed up. A prisoner reported to me today that personnel in health-care in his facility have been taking away meds from prisoners who have been on that particular regimen