Showing posts from February, 2015

On prisoners, and saying "Thanks!"

My mother taught me a valuable lesson, and she did it by modeling.  She always took time to say “thank you.”  And she didn’t do it in some trite manner, as if it were an after-thought.  She took the time to send a note of thanks on pretty note paper.  She dropped off a freshly-baked coffee cake.  She made a personal visit.  Her expressions of gratitude were genuine. In my devotions, I love reading the gospels…I like the Jesus stories.  I’m totally amazed that, even though crowds swarmed around him begging for healing, he never got sick of it.  Never sent them away saying he’d done enough healing that day.  And then there came the ten lepers.  Only one of them returned to say, “Thank you.” HFP Board Chairman Dan Rooks and I got another “prison fix” this week, and it reminded me of some of those Bible stories.  150 men in the room, all of them with needs, all of them wanting help.  But here’s the thing that really touched me:  They first expressed thanks! It was a meeting of

For Black History Month: A tribute to 3 blacks who colored my life!

Mattie Davis In 1954, this little Dutch teenager began his first part-time radio job at station WMUS in Muskegon.  To this point in my life, I had attended an all-white Dutch church and an all-white private Dutch school.  Imagine the culture shock each Sunday morning when I expected to unlock the front door of the radio station to let in the singers of a black gospel quartet called the Heavenly Echoes. The manager of this all-male ensemble was a dynamite little African American woman named Sister Mattie Davis.  One of my first lessons from her involved prayer.  I was used to all the Christian clich├ęs that I had heard in my circles all of my life.  Not so when Sister Mattie Davis offered her prayer on the radio every Sunday morning.  Despite serious racist issues back in the 50s, she would earnestly plead for the safe-keeping of first responders:  “the policemens and the firemens!”  Sister Mattie Davis, and her prayers, touched my life. Cy Young In the early 1970s s

It was a dirty trick! And it hurt!

The dirty trick was performed with a two-edged sword by the Michigan Department of Corrections.  EDGE ONE cut off all email correspondence between HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS and nearly 500 inmates in the Michigan prison system.  In order for inmates to communicate with us, I must first open an account by sending an email message to an inmate.  Once the prisoner receives that message, he/she may begin conversing with me by email through an on-line service called JPay.  On or about February 5, my name was mysteriously removed from the email account lists of ALL our friends.  This effectively cut off all email communications between us! EDGE TWO removed all previous email messages from the mailboxes of these prisoners.  ALL previous correspondence, dating back to the beginning of our conversations!  This includes important legal information, sometimes actual legal documents, medical information, personal information.  It’s all gone! This action by the state came without warning

The state may not like him, but Jesus does!

The Michigan Attorney General would be appalled! Even many of my fellow Christians would shake their heads if they knew my intentions. I’m going to fight for the release of Old Bert. My attention was first drawn to his name by his warden, who informed me in no uncertain terms that she felt he should be out of prison.  He had actually died in her prison once, and they brought him back to life.  He’s in terrible health, and his old body is in terrible shape.  He hobbles along with two canes when he can walk, and he’s constantly in pain, whether standing or sitting. He wept bitterly a couple times when I met with him in the prison.  We had a private room, thanks to the warden...a place where Old Bert could bare his soul.  His crime was so terrible, so heinous, that he lost all respect from family and friends…everyone who knew him disowned him.  And, he admitted, for good reason.  That was 47 years ago. 47 years behind bars, and Old Bert became a new man.  Like Saul of

When the real reason for singing in prison finally appears

I was back behind bars…right where I like to be! Thanks to the wonderful cooperation of the warden and program coordinator at Brooks Correctional Facility in Muskegon, HFP was able to arrange a gospel concert for inmates featuring our musical group SWEET FREEDOM.  The moment inmates began filing into the gymnasium, where we to perform, I knew why God had sent me there last night. -I was surrounded by guys who were incensed that the Michigan Department of Corrections had illegally removed my name from their email capabilities, but had ALSO removed all of their prior email correspondence with me, including critical legal documents. -An inmate who has been unfairly treated by the Michigan Parole Board asked if we could intervene on his behalf.  The board has demanded that he take a sex offender course before he can be released.  BUT, because he claims he was wrongly convicted, the prison won’t let him take the sex offender course. -An inmate who spent almost all of hi

Do prisoners have rights?

That’s a good question.  It was asked by our attorney, as we discussed a decision by the Michigan Department of Corrections to stop all email communications between prisoners and me.  My big concern at the moment was rather selfish:  I was worrying about MY rights. Truth be told, prisoners don’t have many rights.  The constitution says that they do, but just ask any inmate.  He/she will have a different story. First I should explain how this email program works with prisoners.  Inmates are not allowed to just send out email messages at random.  They may only respond to people who have first sent an email message to them through a national program called JPay.  In other words, once I send an email message to a particular inmate, an account has then been established between the two of us.  That inmate may send an email message to me, and vice versa.  In either case, there is a fee involved.  It costs me 10 cents for every message.  Well worth it when you consider that it costs 5

It's your turn to get hot under the collar

I woke up hot this morning.  On a cold day! Have no idea why my thoughts went back to a sermon I heard by a crusty old preacher back when I was in high school, serving as the church organist.  He was preaching from the book of Revelation, and hammering on his own congregation with the words from the letter to the church at Laodicea:  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either one or the other. And that set me to thinking about all the issues we deal with on a daily basis. I know, for example, that the state of Michigan is cold when it comes to these subjects.  That was apparent just the other day when the director of the state’s corrections department said:  I serve at the pleasure of the governor.  I think he’s happy with the things I’m doing. There’s no question that Dr. Martin Luther King was hot when he said, Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. EJI founder Bryan Stevenson was obviously hot when he said, We