Showing posts from October, 2015

Some days it's not much fun in this office!

We promise to try to help any Michigan prisoner dealing with an in-prison problem.  If we can.  And that’s a big “if.”  Today Matt and I haven’t been much help. A prisoner tells us by email that a car ran over him before he went to prison.  Says the inmate:  I haven't gotten any therapy or anything, they just gave me a booklet of things I should do. I got a limp, my ankles hurt, and swell up. They won't give me a shoe detail or anything. I've ask them to give me some shoes but they deny me for everything.   We checked with one of our doctors regarding the injury.  Nothing more that can or should be done.  We checked with a former MDOC official regarding the procedure:  Shoes aren’t all that great.  He should carefully read that booklet. Another inmate tells us about the transfer of prisoners from an Upper Peninsula facility that was recently closed, to a recently re-opened unit just down the street.  There is fiberglass insulation shoved in the ventilation, the toi

On MAURICE HENRY CARTER DAY, the key word is “frustration!”

That single word perhaps best summarizes our battle to obtain Maurice’s freedom. Here are some things that topped our frustration list. His defense attorney The prosecutor The judge The judicial system in general The community The public The Parole Board The Governor The prison staff Prison medical care, or lack thereof The slowness of speed for the wheels of justice.  (Quoting Maurice:  When my case came along, the wheels of justice ground to a halt!). My involvement began after he had already served nearly 20 years.  Convinced that I could make a difference, and in a hurry, I soon learned otherwise.  Here’s just a short list of additional things that frustrated me. The lack of interest The lack of support The generally negative feeling toward prisoners, even, and perhaps especially, among Christians The reaction of many of my own friends ( I wish Doug would quit saying the man is innocent!) The common perception that all prisoners say they

This is why I shed tears

I was sitting in the front row.  Some 100 people had gathered in the meeting room of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lansing.  Michigan State University Drama Professor Lisa Biggs had put together a group of actors from the university, the church and the community, in order to present a stage reading of some excerpts from JUSTICE FOR MAURICE HENRY CARTER.  This is the powerful and moving drama, written by award-winning Toronto playwrights Donald Molnar and Alicia Payne, which tells the story of my friendship with Maurice.  For those few who may still not be aware of his plight, Maurice served 29 years in the Michigan prison system for a crime he did not commit.  This was not the first time I had heard parts of the play.  Marcia and I were privileged to hear the first reading in a small room on the second floor of a Toronto theatre in 2008.  Since that time we have heard actors telling the Maurice Carter story in many venues.  Perhaps the most meaningful was a stag

No quick explanation

“I need some specifics as to just what you do.” The words of an employee of the Michigan Department of Corrections.  He attended a public performance in East Lansing last night.  A nice cast made of up Michigan State University students, members of the nearby Unitarian Church and some other local residents were on stage and had presented some excerpts from the powerful play JUSTICE FOR MAURICE HENRY CARTER.  I went on the stage following the performance to answer questions. The story of my ten year fight at the side of the late Maurice Carter, hoping to seek his release from prison, usually generates questions on police work and the judicial system.  People are justifiably alarmed when they hear that a man served 29 years for a crime he did not commit.  And that leads to the assumption that if it happened to one, it probably happened to many more. But back to the question. I had been asked by Professor Lisa Biggs, who produced the performance, to briefly explain the wo

I think she caught the drift

I was standing before a group of high school seniors, doing my best in trying to explain how we treat prisoners, and why.  I wasn’t sure if I was getting through to a young girl sitting in the front row.  Our eyes would connect for a minute.  Then she’d drift off.  Was I so boring she was falling asleep?  One never knows when trying to communicate with teens. But then it was time for questions and answers. From that young lady in the front row, as she thought back on my account of the Maurice Carter story which led me into this business:  “What was the connecting factor?  Why did you keep on going?  When you thought you had done everything you could for Maurice, why not just quit?”  My answer:  “Because something happened that I had not  planned on…we became dear friends, and that changes everything.  You can’t just explain to a very close friend that you’re sorry, and you’re going to stop helping now.” She seemed to understand. And moments later, two related questions

An open letter to women in Michigan prisons

There are about 43,000 people in Michigan’s state prison system.  This does not include people who are incarcerated in county jails, nor does it include those persons in federal prison facilities.  Of this 43,000, approximately 2,200 are women.  They are all housed in several buildings on one campus called Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility in the city of Ypsilanti.  HFP has received and is still receiving a constant flow of complaints related to overflowing problems.  In response to these letters, telephone calls and email messages from both inmates and their loved ones, President Doug Tjapkes asked for and was granted a private audience with the new Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections, Heidi Washington.  Following the meeting, he penned this letter to the women at Huron Valley.  If you have a friend, relative or loved one at WHV, you are welcome to share this letter. My dear friends at WHV, For months we have been hearing your cries for help, your plea

Wrongful Conviction----It can happen to you!

It was a wrongful conviction case that got me into this business.  Radio broadcasting, my first and greatest love, was luring me back after a 20-year hiatus.  But then I met Maurice Carter, an indigent black man from Gary, Indiana, sitting in a Michigan prison and claiming innocence.  That was in 1995.  The rest is history. Until that time, naïve newsman that I was, I felt that prosecutors just wouldn’t get a warrant, an arrest and seek a conviction if they didn’t really have a case.  Little did I know.  Today is Wrongful Conviction Day , being observed on an international basis.  The event was first organized by the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (that’s the Canadian way to spell defense), based in Toronto and founded by former welterweight champ Rubin Hurricane Carter.  I frequently hear people say that all prisoners claim they are innocent.  Rubin Hurricane, on the other hand, told me when he was in Michigan drawing attention to the Maurice Carter case:  “W