Showing posts from July, 2014

Will the state improve its care of mentally ill prisoners?

There’s a problem at Michigan’s prison for women. Now the big question is: What is doing to be done about it? This week, thanks to courageous reports from whistle-blowers at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti, the American Civil Liberties Union sent a five-page letter to the Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections and the Warden of WHV. The letter outlined the problems involving care of mentally ill women behind bars, demanded improvement and finally offered to help. HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS has been begging for this attention for months. In June, we devoted the entire front page of our monthly newsletter to the topic, with actual quotes from our contacts among the inmates. Finally, we have some momentum. The letter from the ACLU to Director Dan Heyns and Warden Millicent Warren was signed not only by attorneys from the Detroit office, but also by two attorneys from the University of Michigan Law School, the director of the Michigan Women’s Justi

Do sex offenders deserve help?

Matt and I had an interesting discussion with a young attorney recently. He was struggling with himself over the issue of whether to represent a man who is in prison. It wasn’t that the man didn’t deserve legal assistance. He had been brutally beaten by four inmates, and somehow the guards who were supposed to be present in order to prevent things like this from happening, were conveniently absent at the moment. The beating went on for 10 minutes! He’s been in the hospital since April. No, that was not the issue. The issue was the man’s alleged offense that put him behind bars. He had been convicted of a sex offense involving a minor child. After reading documents on the case and from the trial, the attorney wasn’t able to determine whether the inmate was actually guilty. And, like most of us, he found the alleged offense distasteful. He just wasn’t certain he wanted to help this inmate. We learned, during the discussion, that the man had been accused by a jilted lover.

Same old, same old

This was an amazing weekend exactly 10 years ago. Maurice Carter was free, after serving 29 years for a crime he did not commit. It was a time of celebration and elation! Today, one decade later, Matt and I sit in the office that fulfills the Carter dream. And as we sit here, I'm wondering just how much progress has been made in the way Michigan handles prisoners. Maurice was granted a compassionate release...he was not exonerated. He was in the final stages of Hepatitis C, and he desperately needed a liver transplant. He had been diagnosed with Hep-C 8 years earlier, but the state just didn't bother to share that information with him. Things haven't changed much. It took the Governor one full year to grant the release, even though Maurice was dying and could not survive without a transplant. Things haven't changed much. Before even granting the public hearing, the chairman of the Parole Board at that time offered Maurice an immediate release if he would

A parolable lifer walks free

I had a special moment at midnight last night, and that doesn't happen often in this business. We received word from one of our contacts behind bars: Our friend John, a parolable lifer, walked free yesterday! I took a moment to thank God before I crawled into bed. John is the first to admit that he and his friends committed a horrible crime back in the 70s, while high on drugs. There was no excuse for it, and the parolable life sentence was justified. John was 15 at that time. He's going on 55 right now, having spent the majority of his life in prison. I'm so pleased to report that he didn't continue on an evil path during his incarceration. He was determined to improve himself, and to do things for others. His prison record reflects all of his accomplishments, as well as his personal improvement. Even with all of that, it was a long and difficult road to freedom. Many still believe he should remain in prison. In fact, when a newspaper published a story

The HFP roller coaster rides again

Here's the roller coaster that Matt and I rode on, in the very front seat, today in the office of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS. UP Thank you for your help. You are a great example of helping others. I pray that I only honor that by helping others, too! DOWN I still have not been in to see the Dr. since the colonoscopy and the pain in my side while subsided somewhat is not gone and flares its ugly head on occasion. No help with the under-active thyroid either. The last couple of days have been bad but today so far is better thank you Jesus! UP The Warden's Forum approved the donation for $1000.00 to HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS. It was approved by the Warden and everyone. The funds have been approved and will be deducted first before any funds are spent in the next budget to cover all approved budget requests and approvals for the year. DOWN On Monday they came and told Ms. R. her mom was here for a visit, did she want to go see her. Of course she got very excited and said ye

Michigan's forgotten prisoners

The Lord himself...will never leave you or forsake not be discouraged. I'm sure that these words from Moses to Joshua, as quoted in Deuteronomy 31, have been a comfort to millions of people over the years. They came to my mind over the weekend as HFP deals with a little-known problem in the Michigan prison system: the plight of prisoners with long, indeterminate sentences. The situation is this: Some insensitive judges, perhaps hoping to make a statement, handed down sentences far worse than life in prison. Here are two examples. My friend Troy Chapman, instead of receiving a parolable life sentence, was given 60 to 90 years. Another prisoner whom I don't know, but whose situation was revealed in an AP story this weekend, is Leon Echols. His sentence was 75 to 150 years! And here's the problem. Thanks to an opinion by the Michigan Attorney General in 1986, these guys are not eligible for parole until they serve their minimum. This means that Chapman