Showing posts from November, 2013

HFP: Giving reason for thanks

HFP's accomplishments in our daily dealings with prisoners are not exciting, breath-taking and exceptional. For the most part, they are simple, small steps toward making life just a little better for hundreds of Michigan at a time. In this Thanksgiving week--- Joe is thankful that HFP could be at his side for a Parole Board interview. Dotty is thankful that HFP's pressure resulted in portable toilets for her unit during bathroom construction. Herman is thankful to be a free man after 34 years. We testified at his public hearing. Tony is thankful that someone is willing to take time to help him fill out his commutation application form. James is thankful that we were able to pair him up with a fine defense attorney. Dave is thankful that our efforts helped bring his case to the attention of an Innocence Project. Jack is thankful for his new pair of glasses that we ordered for him. Alfreda is thankful that we made the drive to speak at h

Two rays of sunshine on one cloudy day

It is totally and completely November today. My little glassed-in office is in the woods, one mile in-land from Lake Michigan, and the November weather can be wintry. Today a "sou-wester" is howling, snow squalls suddenly appear, and the sky remains dark. It's not pleasant. It would be the most unlikely day to expect a ray of sunshine, especially in this business. Word of another gang problem in another prison, word from the family of a dying prisoner that they seem to be making no headway, word that an inmate with irritable bowel syndrome can get no medication, word of new retaliation by prison's what we live with in the HFP office. And it contributes to a dark and gloomy day. But God has the most amazing way of brightening the day. Amid all of the complaints of the day comes a note of thanks from a group of women who have been struggling with lack of adequate toilet facilities in a construction zone. We fought for them, and our communicatio

The kangaroo public hearing

I'm discouraged. The public hearing concept of the Michigan Parole Board is flawed, and I just can't see how it's ever going to get revised. A public hearing isn't granted to a prisoner often, and a chosen inmate is immediately elated. It offers hope for freedom. Little does he or she know how traumatic this experience will be. I participate whenever asked. It's HFP's goal to offer hope, and we must never refuse these opportunities. A three-hour drive to speak for just 2 minutes means nothing. We do it without complaint. This week I agreed to testify at a public hearing for a woman who had served 26 years on a charge of second degree murder. She didn't really commit the murder...but her boyfriend and his buddies did. She didn't even know it happened until later, but she was implicated, and she was convicted. Life in prison at the age of 20. She was angry. As a child she had been abused and neglected. She had children outside of marria

Michigan's train wreck

So here's a sample of what Matt and I have on the HFP plate today. A guy writes from Chippewa that his meds for acid reflux have been stopped. When he wrote a grievance, they simply told him to stop eating the food that causes the reflux. Well,that's the food they serve him...albeit in small portions. So, his only alternative: stop eating. And that's what he's doing. A guy writes from Cotton that his friend has been slashed in the face by members of a Latino gang, which, he claims, has rule over the prison yard. As a result of the attack, they're in lock-down. A woman wrote from the only facility for women, located in Ypsilanti, that the MDOC Director came to check on the problem of no toilets in one unit, due to remodeling and repairing. As a result, five portable toilets were brought in. But, to date, no one is allowed to use them. They're just setting there. The wife of a prisoner in Newberry reports that she still has no response to her pleas

Third world jail? Nope, Michigan prison

I've had it! We may not treat women this way! You've been reading and hearing about the toilet and shower shortages during remodeling and repairs in one of the women's prison units. At one point, 74 women with no toilet...inmates forced to go to the unit next door. Now the HFP office is hearing complaints from women in that unit, who were told to drink less water so they wouldn't have to go to the bathroom as often. These comments came right from a Michigan prison, operated with your tax dollars and mine: People are dehydrated, with sick stomachs, from not being able to go #2 One girl went to the desk and asked for a bag, she couldn't hold her poo any longer. Officer gave her a paper towel Some girls had to pee in their trash can Some officers don't even announce bathroom loud, and if you don't hear it and miss it, too bad...another two hours They constantly yell at us telling us to hurry up, hurry have 3 minutes to use the bathroo

Why we do the PB interview

I love to participate in Parole Board interviews. As the President of HFP, my presence is requested from time to time by inmates who must appear before a representative of the Michigan Parole Board for an interview. Often this request comes because the prisoner has no family or friends nearby, and sometimes it comes because he or she has no more family or friends on the outside. Either way, I love it, and I say this not to make me look like some sort of hero. That I am not. But here's the deal. An appearance before a Parole Board member might be rather rare in the inmate's life, and he or she wants to make a good impression. The minute the date is set, the prisoner cannot stop thinking about it. There's hope. There's a possibility the Parole Board might vote to give that person a second chance. Then there are the worries that invariably crop up in their minds: they might say the wrong things, they might just “blow it” and give the wrong impression; there

Home is where the heart is

I've been doing some fretting about the subject of home lately. Marcia and I have decided to downsize in our sunset years, and took the giant leap of purchasing a condo. Working with the bank was very difficult...I'm still not sure why. Now the condo needs a new furnace and new appliances. More money that we don't have. Then will come the painstaking process of emptying our present home, where we have spent the past 45 years and where we reared all of our children. My fretting stopped yesterday when my friend David called. David is a wrongly convicted sex offender who served 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Naturally he was anxious to be released, but now he's finding that freedom isn't all that exciting for one who is on a sex offender list. In fact, he's homeless. He finds a low-priced place that might fit into his tiny budget (he lives on disability income), only to learn that the dwelling is near a school. He would be committin

Bladder full, and no place to go

The sad treatment of women in the Michigan prison system reached another peak this week. Actually, it's been building up for weeks, as crews have been working in the prison system to improve the bathrooms...toilets and showers. The problem is, they start a job, close down some units...then don't show up for a few days. Then they start a new job without finishing the old job. And soon you have an array of toilets and showers that are shut down. . We've been receiving steady complaints about this, but yesterday came the worst one. Our friend Dora said that two weeks ago the construction crew closed their bathroom, leaving the unit with one toilet and one shower for 74 women. This week, the crew came in and shut down the final facility. Now, if the women must go to the bathroom, provisions have been made for them to go next-door to what is called the "acute unit." It's the secure area where the mentally disturbed people are housed. These people don

Maurice would be pleased

That divine intervention has played a key role in the start-up, continued operation, and future of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS is not even a question. It has now reached the point of being an amazing phenomenon. HFP started out based on the dream of the late Maurice Carter, a wrongly convicted prisoner who served 29 years for a crime he did not commit. I wasn't entirely excited about launching the project, originally called INNOCENT! But Maurice was determined that his negative situation should be turned into something positive. And so doors opened---a generous donor gave us free office space and supplies, a supportive attorney did all the tricky legal work to obtain our IRS 501c3 status, and our efforts began touching the lives of prisoners within days. But how could it keep on going? -It was being operated by one person already at retirement age -Its goals were quite unpopular in most circles -It couldn't generate enough revenue to make any type of progress -Its boar