Showing posts from September, 2015

The Pope behind bars: Leading by example!

Pope Francis provided a beautiful tutorial for religious leaders last week.  And really, for all people of all faiths.  Our pastors and rabbis and faith community leaders learned that it’s OK to talk about global warming, global economy, feeding the poor, and (gasp) caring about prisoners!  Nay, not only OK…but essential! My heart was touched when he not only paid a visit to prison (as did our President recently), but took time to shake individual hands, and then to speak to the inmates.  His message to prisoners was a simple one: This time in your life can only have one purpose: to give you a hand in getting back on the right road, to give you a hand to help you rejoin society. All of us are part of that effort, all of us are invited to encourage, help and enable your rehabilitation.  His message to you and me was equally as simple, and profound: Jesus invites us to share in his lot, his way of living and acting. He teaches us to see the world through his eyes. Eye

I held the door open!

In my car alone, returning from a brief prison visit, I reflected on the work of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS.  It’s near the end of the month, and we still haven’t even reached 50% of our budget.  Money is tight. And I thought:  If only our supporters could have spent the last hour with me. It was a big day at MCF.  But only for a few people. On the surface, it was another routine day at Muskegon Correctional Facility. When I arrived at 8:30 AM, a friendly corrections officer at the front desk asked if he could be of service.  I announced that I was there to welcome a friend who planned to walk out on parole.  He was puzzled, and informed me that I was probably at the wrong facility.  There was no one else in the lobby…there were no prisoners in the nearby holding area. He was aware of nothing like this on the schedule. Meanwhile, it was just another morning at the prison. A big State of Michigan bus rolled up.  A new inmate was arriving from another facility.  Anothe

Hate to say it: Hate ain't good!

I’m so sick of hatred! We hear and read of it every day, and it’s toxic. Tell me, with a straight face, that nothing, absolutely nothing, on this list makes you see red: President Obama Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Gays, Lesbians and Transgenders Pro-Lifers Pro-Choicers Gun-toting cops Cop-shooters Conservatives Liberals Environmentalists Gun control proponents The NRA Immigrants Refugees Anyone of a different color Anyone who doesn’t speak English Welfare recipients Corporate CEOs Christians Muslims Criminals Especially sex offenders Which means Prisoners. And that’s just a list off the top of my head.  I know that you can add more. To counter that, as we come to the end of this week, I offer two suggestions. First , regardless of your feelings about the Christian faith, grab a Bible, or if you don’t have one just Google I Corinthians 13.  It’s time to re-read the words from St. Paul, a man who---prior to a drama

Who's gonna help these women?

In California, they’re reducing the number of prisoners.  But it took a Federal Court order to get the ball rolling.  Is that what it’s going to take in Michigan?  Nothing else has worked so far. Michigan’s terribly overcrowded prison for women has been a best-kept secret by government and corrections officials.  We’re going to do our part to change that. All female state inmates are housed in one prison:  Women’s Huron Valley Facility, in Ypsilanti.  There are actually two facilities in one, and together they currently hold approximately 2,200 inmates, and corrections officials told me last week that the number is going up.  The reasons why the women’s prison population is increasing are worthy of a story, but we’ll save that for another time.  For now, we want to discuss the many ways women’s rights are being violated by the state prison system due to this overcrowded situation. Our office is being inundated by complaints from prisoners, and we’ve been in this busine

You're not here just to play golf!

On this Labor Day, 2015, I’m thinking about the life of former President Jimmy Carter. We didn’t much like Jimmy Carter in this part of the world.  He was from the other political party.  Former President Jerry Ford was our man.  He had roots right here in western Michigan, and he was from the party where all Christians belonged, the GOP. I’m thinking about Jimmy because, after serving in public office, he didn’t stop working.  When Jerry Ford got out, he played golf.  When Jimmy Carter got out, he picked up a hammer and helped to build houses for the homeless…that is, when he was not traveling around the world as our ambassador for peace.  He obviously sensed a calling, and age wasn’t going to get in the way. Don’t misunderstand me…I don’t think it’s wrong to play golf, either before you retire or after you retire.  But if that’s all you’re going to do, I think it’s worth reconsidering. It’s only natural that I reflect on my own occupations on this Labor Day morning,

And remember their loved ones as well!

The oft-quoted text from Hebrews, …remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison… deserves a really broad interpretation.  In our humble view, this also refers to the loved ones of prisoners.  Many of the requests for help that come into the HFP office are from family members or spouses.  The mother of a mentally ill prisoner begged us for assistance after she was denied personal visits for a period of time, and when she learned that her daughter was being seriously abused.  And speaking of visitation, another mother contacted our office saying that she hadn’t even spoken with her son for over a year.  There may be some legitimate reasons for this lack of visitation and communication, but the problem is finding out what those reasons are.  Corrections people have a long way to go when it comes to treating loved ones in a civil manner, and keeping them informed. A wife learned that her husband was transferred to a psych unit recently, but is unable