Showing posts from July, 2015

July 24: A very special day!

The note in my pocket calendar on this date consists simply of two names---Matt and Maurice.  Both family members. Matt is our youngest son, sometimes referred to as a tag-along because he came along so much later that his three older siblings.  He was born in 1978 when his parents already had passed the age of 40.  Today is his birthday. Maurice’s full name was Maurice Henry Carter, an indigent black man from Gary, Indiana, who also became family to us.  He was a wrongly convicted Michigan prisoner whom I met back in the 1990s.  Today is the day he walked out of prison, in the year 2004, after serving 29 years for a crime he did not commit. As Maurice’s closest friend, I was there to walk out that prison door in Jackson with him.  As a cub reporter for the Grand Haven Tribune, Matthew was there in Jackson to cover the story.  In fact, it is his photograph that appears on the cover of my book which tells the Tjapkes/Carter story, SWEET FREEDOM.  Maurice is clasping his fre

That can't happen to me!

A person who has the means chose not to support our work this week.  That’s not so unusual…after all, our work really isn’t very popular.  But his reason sticks in my craw, and deserves a response.  Here’s what he told a member of our board:  I can write a book on the issues I have with prisons, legal system, overcrowding and any other issue someone in jail has BUT the biggest is just don't go to jail. Here’s the problem I have with that.  The guy is really saying, “That couldn’t happen to me.  If people just lived the way I live, they wouldn’t wind up behind bars.”  And that is so sadly untrue. While it is true that many of the inmates with whom we work are poor and didn’t have the means to hire good legal counsel, the wealthy are not exempt.  It may be true that it’s difficult for a rich man to get into heaven, based on Jesus’ words, but it’s certainly not hard for him to get into jail! Let me just cite a few examples of people who, I am sure, probably thought the sa

An empty chair at the memorial service

Michelle’s teen-aged son will be buried today.  The boy’s father and grandparents will be there.  His mother will be absent. I cannot begin to describe my emotions:  heartbreak, anger, disgust.  And I don’t even know Michelle!  Here’s the story in a nutshell. Our office received a message last week from the mother of a prisoner at the Women’s Huron Valley facility in Ypsilanti.  Her friend Michelle, age 44, learned that her 18-year-old son Josh had died unexpectedly at home due to an asthma attack.  A death in the family is a serious problem for prisoners…something, we believe, that must be improved in the future. We followed the situation day by day, here’s the way it developed. On the 7 th , the day after the young man died, she was informed that she could be transported to the funeral home in the thumb area, accompanied by two officers, but she and her family would have to pay the tab:  $1,000 each way.  On the 10 th , we received a message that Michelle had

A happy holiday?

I love the Fourth of July, and I don’t mean to rain on anybody’s parade. It’s important that we celebrate the birthday of this wonderful nation; fireworks, parades, and picnics…they’re all appropriate. But it is important, as we pay tribute to the land of the brave and the home of the free, that not everyone in this land is free.  I’m going to give just a sample of some people who aren’t quite as enthusiastic on this Independence Day: -Approximately 10% of all prisoners who have been wrongly convicted, due to flaws in our judicial system -Many prisoners serving excessive sentences for non-violent crimes, due to such flawed programs as THREE STRIKES AND YOU’RE OUT -Many women, victims of spouse abuse, who are serving excessive sentences for simply fighting for their lives -Parolable lifers who are not getting another chance due to reluctant action by a Parole Board -Former prisoners who, in some states, are not allowed to vote -Many former prisoners who find that