Showing posts from September, 2013

No strings attached

We turned down a financial gift this week, and that hurt. But the strings attached to the gift hurt even more. Here's the background. HFP seeks funds from foundations simply because the gifts of our supporters can't quite cover the budget. Many of our partners are lower income people. The foundation considered a gift, but suggested these conditions: the foundation's name would have to be attached to every effort on our part to seek compassionate release for dying prisoners; the foundation's name must be used in a public announcement; and the foundation's name must be shared with the prisoner as well as the inmate's family in each individual case. In other words, HFP would become a publicity tool for the foundation. It's important to stress here that this is a fine foundation with a great reputation. Under different circumstances we would have no problem promoting its cause. But this proposal flies in the face of our entire philosophy. Ann

How best to tell the story?

Son Matt and I will be traveling out of town today. I have been invited to speak at a meeting of one of the popular service clubs...Matt will be there to set up and man the display. We're well aware of what to expect. The make-up of the audience is sure to be all-white, professional and semi-professional people, middle to upper income. It's early in the morning, and once again as I try to organize my comments, I'm struggling with how to connect with these people. Matt and I have both found that, unless we make a very compelling case, there will be yawns, blank stares, and glances at wrist watches. These aren't evil people. They're pillars of the community, and certainly many are responsible for major accomplishments in their town. They're nice. They're friendly. But they can't seem to relate. How do Matt and I make our case? How do we convince them that we're not just a couple of do-gooders showing kindness to people behind bars? We&

This little light of mine

I was listening to some country gospel music while driving the other day. Some good ol' boy came on to sing a song that wasn't terribly impressive musically, but I found the words arresting: For some folks, you're the only Bible they're gonna read! It is so easy to forget that when a driver refuses to pull over to the right lane, or we see another driving in an erratic manner while texting, or when someone cuts in line as we're standing in the supermarket. And while this old country gospel song is true for you and me, it is especially true for those persons who wear Christianity on their sleeve, like preachers, missionaries, chaplains, and leaders of Christian organizations and agencies. I bring this up because I found the actions, or I should say lack of action, most disappointing in two recent incidents involving prisoners. In the first, an inmate shared with me how much he loved church as a child, and how he revered the pastor of his church at that tim

MDOC violates it's own policy!

To establish my case, let me first give you direct quotes from MDOC Policy Directive 03.04.125: The appropriate facility head or designee shall be notified when an offender is seriously or critically injured or becomes seriously or critically ill. In such cases, the facility head shall ensure that attempts are made to immediately notify the offender's emergency contact person by telephone or certified mail. Whenever an emergency contact person is notified...staff shall ensure that the emergency contact person is kept informed of the offender's treatment and progress... Joey James Mercer 1960-2013 8/26 Joe's wife Sarah goes to his prison in Coldwater to visit him, only to be informed that he isn't there. He's being transported. She knows that he is seriously ill with liver disease, so she is worried. She is unable to learn anything more. 8/27 HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS learns of Sarah's plight and joins forces to try to find her husband. 8/28 Prisone

The impersonal MDOC

Two separate cases that kept us busy in the HFP office last week underscored, once again, the callousness of the Michigan Department of Corrections. In the first instance, the wife of a prisoner was trying to find her husband. She went to visit him, and was told that he was not there...he was being transported. She knows that he is seriously ill with a liver disease, so she feared the worst. But no one would tell her. For a couple days she could not find her husband! MDOC policy clearly states that if someone is critically ill, the person closest to that prisoner must be notified right away. Not only that, but his wife should have been apprised of everything happening after that. When we questioned someone at the state level about that policy, we were informed that it is interpreted differently at different institutions. Hard to imagine how else it can be interpreted, but that's what happened. The man was being rushed to a hospital in an ambulance with liver disease/end

Sequel, The Pathetic Parole Board

Robert Otto Bryan: 1937-2013 I penned the entry seen below last March, after the Michigan Parole Board gave my friend Otto a flop. I had sent a letter to the board on behalf of HFP outlining all of his medical issues. In typical fashion, the board looked at the seriousness of the crime 40 years ago, but apparently failed to take a good look at an ailing patient, and a changed man. I was saddened to hear from Otto's widow this past week that his failing body just couldn't take it any more. With typical indifference, prisoners learned about his death sooner than his wife. With typical insensitivity, he had been denied a canister of oxygen for his COPD, according to prisoners, because that was considered not unlike carrying a bomb around. With typical inefficiency, his belongings will not be returned to his wife for about 28 days. The good news is that Otto can breathe just fine now, and he's without pain. The bad news is that thousands of God's children are