Showing posts from April, 2015

That rare moment when a parole is granted!

It kinda reminds you of the sheep farmer that Jesus talked about! The guy was caring for 100 sheep, in the parable as related by Dr. Luke in Chapter 15, when one of them got lost.  He left the 99 out in the open country and went looking for the lost sheep.  When he found it, he put the frightened animal on his shoulders and carried it home.  He then called his friends and neighbors, asking them to rejoice with him, because he had found the one lost sheep. Well, that seems to be about the percentage of paroles granted in Michigan.  But today we learned of one, and we’re rejoicing! I had written a piece on this site last November, after a discouraging day.  I had promised my friend Joe that I would speak on his behalf at a Public Hearing, where the Michigan Parole Board would collect information pertaining to his possible release.  The hearing hadn’t gone well, in my opinion.  In fact, the day got off to a bad start before the hearing even began.  Joe’s elderly step-father s

A penny for your thoughts

I wonder what you’re thinking.  I’m the guest speaker at your weekly men’s prayer breakfast, but you don’t appear to be very interested.  Looking at the church you attend, the car you drive, the way you dress, I’d guess that you’re in my income range (moderate).  Judging by your appearance, I’d say that you’re in my age range (70-80). I know that we’re the same color (white). Yet I find it interesting that you choose not to look me in the eye while I’m speaking.  Not once.  And I also find it interesting that you refuse to smile.  Not once.  There’s certainly no rule that you must look at me when I speak, or nod, or smile…but it’s hard for me to know your feelings when you won’t even look up. When I talk about the plight of prisoners, something is obviously bothering you.  What is it? Just because I believe that all prisoners deserve humane treatment, appropriate medical care and decent food---regardless of their crime---does that make me some sort of left-wing do-gooder? 

A lot of talk, not much else

It was probably the wrong day for me to attend a meeting.  I suppose the case could be made that I dislike attending most meetings most of the time.  But yesterday was different. In just one day, our office dealt with a record number of communications from Michigan prisoners and/or their family members.  Among the 28 with whom we communicated, several needed help with seeking a commutation of their sentences, one claimed wrongful conviction, one is suing the system, one was having trouble with a bunkie (room-mate), one wants a letter written to a judge, one was just denied parole, one hoped for some re-entry information, one reported a bullying problem of older women behind bars.  And the list went on and on.  We couldn’t keep up with the requests, and by the end of the day Matt and I were catching our breath, still trying to find answers. By evening it was time to head to Grand Rapids, where Crossroads Bible Institute was presenting a seminar on the effects of solitary confin

My Easter thoughts for prisoners

This is one of my favorite parts of the Easter story in the Bible, as told by Dr. Luke: One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him:  “Aren’t you the Christ?  Save yourself and us!”  But the other criminal rebuked him.  “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Here was Jesus practicing what he had preached, in Matthew 25:  showing compassion to a prisoner.  And that’s what he offers to prisoners today.  Doesn’t make any difference whether they are guilty or not.  Doesn’t make any difference if their past is checkered.  Doesn’t make any difference if they never darkened the door of a church.  I’d especially like to pass along this Easter message to -the prisoner whose

From God's unending bag of surprises

Things like this continue to surprise me, even though, by now, I should be getting used to the most unusual ways God works. This is the story of two wrongly convicted prisoners, from two different worlds. Ed is 70, black, and not highly educated. Mark is 20 years younger, white, and highly educated. I met them both in the year 2009.  Edward was in a remote location in the Upper Peninsula.  Mark was in a Muskegon prison, right near our home.  Both had compelling stories, and neither belonged behind bars. Ed was blessed to have the assistance of Toronto-based AIDWYC, the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted.  (Yes, that’s the way they spell defense in Canada.)  But, due to alleged insurance issues, the AIDWYC trustees decided that the organization would no longer handle cases outside of that country.  Ed was devastated.  He had been clinging to that hope for eventual freedom.  I am not an attorney, and HFP does not take on cases of wrongful conviction.  Th