Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A broken heart for Thanksgiving

Mr. H just received a rotten Thanksgiving present:  He must spend 5 more years in prison.  He has already served 47 years.

I first met him just a year ago.  His prison warden, who has a heart for the down-trodden, personally asked me if there was some way that HFP could help this man in obtaining a release.

For the sake of background, Mr. H is 74 years of age.  The warden claims that he actually died three different times in her prison, only to be revived again.  He’s had 5-bypass heart surgery.  He has serious leg problems that give him constant pain, and keep him in a wheelchair. His health is a mess.

I wouldn’t dare publish his name because of the severity of the crime.  Those in his community who remember it would say he deserves to remain behind bars, and deserves every bit of the accompanying pain and discomfort that he lives with on a daily basis. 

On the other hand, I listened to the warden, was given a private meeting with him, and on her recommendation decided that we should try to help.  Lifers like Mr. H get to appear before the Parole Board once every 5 years, and his turn came up in August.  His crime was so heinous that all family and friends have long abandoned him, so I offered to be at his side for the interview.  It was a disaster.

Never mind that Mr. H had committed the crime while high on alcohol and drugs and cannot remember what happened.  The Parole Board member insisted that he give her specific details as to what happened in 1968.  As an alcoholic, he had experienced a typical blackout.  He couldn’t give her the information she wanted, and that infuriated this state employee.  He could have lied and made up a story, but he chose to tell the truth, and that wasn’t acceptable. 

Because of that, she paid little attention to the fact that he hasn’t had a misconduct in 25 years, that he went on to get his GED, then a tool and die maker certificate, then a paralegal degree.  It made no difference to her that this alcoholic hasn’t touched a drop during his entire imprisonment, even though homemade booze is always available.  His remorse and regret result in uncontrollable sobbing at times...and it happened again during the interview.  It’s no secret that he changed his life and became a man of sincere faith, believing that because the Lord had saved his life he must do good things in return.  So as a paralegal, he’s helping one prisoner after another with free assistance, and doing it with a glad heart.

Nope, none of that made any difference to this veteran member of the Michigan Parole Board.  She just handed him a flop---prison terminology for a continuation.  He got the word a few days ago.

Not only will he remain in prison for the next five years, the state will wind up paying double or triple the cost for this man’s care, because of his severe health problems.  And it didn’t have to be that way.  Mr. H would have been a productive member of society.

Does anyone wonder why Michigan’s prison population is so high?

Said the former warden, who felt he should have been released:  “This is just awful!” 



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