Showing posts from December, 2015

A prisoner prayer - for the New Year

Lord of the universe, as we end one year and begin another, we ask that you hear our pleas on behalf of those behind bars. Prisoners will lose loved ones in the year to come.  Even though they will not be privileged to experience the physical closeness of friends and family in their time of grief, we pray that they may not only feel your presence, but also your comfort and your peace. We know of your compassion for those whose minds were troubled.  We know how, in Bible times, evil spirits were ordered to depart from the bodies of the mentally challenged.  As we look to the new year, we ask you to do the same for those troubled souls behind bars who are not able to think clearly and respond correctly.  In addition, halt those inmates and staff members who would harm them or do further damage.  Instead, cloak their caregivers in a garment of compassion and concern. Lord Jesus, may the women behind bars feel the same warmth and love that you showed to your dear mother, an

In Santa's bag: Friends!

It’s always a pleasurable experience to develop a new friendship.  In our work, Matt and I quite often meet someone new who appreciates the work that we are doing, offers to help in some way, and becomes a new friend, not only to HFP, but to us, personally. Sitting at my desk in the quiet of Christmas morning, carols playing softly in the background, I’m thankful for all my friends.  But my heart is filled with gratitude on Christmas, 2015, for my friends behind bars---especially those whom I hadn’t yet met just one year ago.  As we reviewed our contact records for the year, we discovered that we added at least one new person to our list of friends every day, 7 days a week.  By December 31, I will have added the names of more than 365 persons behind bars to my list of friends.  And these aren’t merely acquaintances…these are friends! For example, Matt and I received an unprecedented number of Christmas cards in the mail from prisoners this year, and many, many more ecards and

The Christmas Spirit, as told by Channel 8

The producers of Channel 8 News had no idea they were giving me a lesson on the Spirit of Christmas.  But that’s exactly what happened late yesterday. It had been a hectic and heartbreaking day at the HFP desk:  stories of wrongful conviction, shabby and callous treatment by the Parole Board, an inmate struggling with mental illness, another dealing with an embarrassing physical ailment that prevents him from even wanting to leave his cell.  As you know, this week we have been publicizing the plight of women in Michigan’s prison facility, where overcrowded conditions are making life miserable.  Back to the 6 o’clock news. Much of the news was dominated by presidential candidate Donald Trump, doing the thing he seems to do best:  bad-mouthing Mexicans, immigrants, women…anybody who doesn’t look like him or think like him.  And that started my thought processes in this Christmas week.  There are many people who, I’m sure, claim that they follow this Christ Child, and yet who

I'm just plain disappointed!

You’d think a veteran worker in this field, with a journalism background, would have learned by now.  Yet, I stubbornly remain an optimist.  And that’s why I was so disappointed this week. Matt and I have been dealing with problems related to overcrowded conditions at the one and only Michigan prison for women, Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility (WHV), in Ypsilanti, for weeks.  Nay, months.  I even drove to Lansing for a personal meeting with the new Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections. Finally, a ray of shining light this week!  Paul Egan, fine writer for the Detroit Free Press, agreed that the overcrowded conditions and a resulting 21-hour-a-day restriction to prison cells were worthy of a story.  Perhaps, just perhaps, now the MDOC will respond, administrators at the facility might consider adjustment, attorneys might consider class action, Michigan voters might consider contacting their elected officials and demand change. Alas, none of the above

Scrooge pays a visit to women in prison!

Women in the Michigan prison system received a piece of coal in their Christmas stocking this year.  A new policy, enacted just before the Christmas holiday limits their time in the Day Room to three hours per day.  What this means, in effect, is that inmates are then confined to their cells or perhaps the yard for the rest of the day. The Michigan Department of Corrections claimed, in an interview with Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press, that the action was taken because of intense competition for Day Room space, even coming down to near-criminal activity.  I’m not saying that kind of stuff doesn’t or didn’t happen…after all, this is prison.  But here we see two typical MDOC responses:  1), place the blame somewhere other than on the real problem, which is very obviously overcrowding; and 2), over-react by penalizing everyone.  I hope you read Mr. Egan’s article in the FREEP this morning, and we hope you’ll respond by forwarding the piece to the Governor and to your state le

Dirk was right!

Many people aren’t all that interested in making life a little better for prisoners.  It goes back to the old saying, “If they hadn’t done the crime they wouldn’t be doing the time.”   Video producer Dirk Wierenga quickly made that discovery, as he started doing interviews for a new HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS documentary.  A theme on improving the lot of prisoners was not going to work.  If his video production was going to help us raise money, it would have to change direction.  As he adjusted the focus of the documentary, Wierenga took the approach that 90% of these prisoners are going to return to society someday.  They’re going to move into our neighborhoods, work in our businesses, and attend our churches.  If they come out with a positive attitude, having been treated with compassion while behind bars, 1) there’ll be less chance of re-offending;  2) there’ll be a strong chance that they’ll be good neighbors;  and 3), chances are they’ll want to give back to society. I’m conv

A Christmas gift from behind bars

The question came up again just the other day:  With all the negative stuff that you guys deal with on a daily basis, how do you maintain a positive attitude? Let me answer that right this second, because I’ve just opened the mail that arrived in our Post Office box today. Seems our friend Roger, an occupant of the Muskegon Correctional Facility, shared the news with his bunkie that he was about to put together a little home-made Christmas card to Matt, me, and Father Jared Cramer (our unofficial chaplain who also serves on our Board of Directors).  His friend said that he wanted to sign the card, too.  And the word spread.  Other guys wanted to sign the card.  And they wanted to add messages.  Page after page of the tiny sheets got glued together.  I ripped open the envelope today, to find these electric-printer-generated words on the face of a pasted-together card:   Doug, Matt, Jared, and HFP Staff. Here’s a sample of some of the messages attached to the holiday greetin