Showing posts from December, 2014

Michigan's shameful treatment of mentally ill inmates

It doesn’t take long to figure out what’s wrong with Michigan prisoner Mr. T. You don’t have to spend hours trying to decipher the awkward hand-writing in a meandering 5-page letter, or the stack of poorly prepared grievances, or the attached medical and psychological reports. Here’s what you’ll find:            - two suicide attempts           -personal attacks by inmates           -verbal abuse by guards           -various medical issues, some serious, some treated, some not           -misconduct tickets, often for “insolence.” Mr. T. is mentally ill. This subject keeps rearing its ugly head as Matt and I try to address the problems of inmates.  A good share of our prisoners are mentally challenged, staff-members aren’t properly trained to handle them, and many fellow-prisoners don’t know how to deal with them.  As a result, tragic stories, hundreds of them very much like this…and nothing happening! Reading between the lines, it’s easy to see how staf

Holiday season: A time to pray for prisoners

Last minute Christmas shopping worries? Wondering if you got the right gift for the right person? Wondering if everyone will get along at the holiday family gathering? Our Christmas week suggestion suggestion:  Give the gift of prayer...prayer for hurting, lonely, needy children of God huddling behind bars. Right now, there’s a prisoner feeling lonely at Christmas time, because family and friends abandoned him/her years ago.  Fewer than 15% of Michigan inmates even receive visits! Right now, there’s a prisoner wishing he could see his children, but his wife has obtained a court-order forbidding visits. Right now, there’s a prisoner contemplating suicide because he feels friendless, or because he has been raped, or because he is being victimized by gang-bangers. Right now, a prisoner is struggling with pain because of improper, inappropriate, or just plain lack of any medical care. Right now, a mentally ill prisoner is so drugged that he/she has no idea

There's more than one way to touch a life

I refuse to call this a defense of HFP philosophy.  I prefer to call it an explanation. When telling of our work to church groups, I always explain that we do not teach Bible lessons in prison…other groups are already doing that.  We do not openly try to convert inmates to Christianity.  Other prison missionaries make that their goal.  Our efforts are Christian in nature, because we believe we are showing compassion to inmates in the name of Jesus, but in a very practical way.  I usually quote St. Francis of Assisi:  Preach the gospel every day.  Use words if necessary. I go way back to the days when we started this organization in 2001.  The name of our agency was still INNOCENT at that time.  I had been asked by the Wisconsin Innocence Project to assist in helping a guy who was wrongly convicted.  During my two days in Madison, I didn’t help free the man from prison.  But I learned that he was completely estranged from his offspring due to his outrageous behavior in an earli

Human Rights Day: Phhtttt!

Isn’t it ironic that today, December 10, is Human Rights Day? Human Rights Day is a global observance, not a national holiday, and nothing that will give kids a day off, close banks or stop your daily mail.  It was developed by the UN way back in the 1940s, following the Second World War.  Its observance is marred today. ON THE NATIONAL LEVEL, The United States has been disgraced by newly released reports showing that our country used torture on detainees who, it was believed, may have been involved with or had contact with those who brought about the 9/11 attack in New York.  It’s a shameful day in U.S. history. But torture isn’t limited to just the national and international arenas. ON THE STATE LEVEL, our office is dealing with a first-hand report from inside the women’s prison located in Ypsilanti regarding a mentally ill inmate:  The last 18 months she has been locked in an Observation Cell without showering, reading material, or any form of human contact, for

Not your traditional graduation ceremony

I thought back to last spring. I was watching happy and excited crowds in New York City, on hand for a traditional Christmas season ceremony.  But I was reflecting on an experience of a few hours earlier, one that reminded me of happy and exciting times for many of our friends last spring. As warm weather arrived, there were outdoor receptions for high school graduates, many people posted many pictures of graduates on Facebook, newspaper stories paid tribute to valedictorians and salutatorians, display ads recognized the accomplishments of high school grads from various local institutions.  It was an exciting time, and proud parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters attended ceremonies marking this milestone in the lives of local teenagers.  That isn’t the way it was yesterday at Brooks Correctional Facility, one of three state prisons located in Muskegon. Nearly 50 students, ranging in age from the late teens to the late 60s, had been patiently tutored by