Friday, April 21, 2017

When we can't help, that's what breaks my heart!

“War is hell.”  A quote attributed to General William Tecumseh Sherman dating back to the Civil War.

“Prison is hell.”  A quote attributed to Doug Tjapkes at the turn of the 21st Century.

Articles appearing in our newspapers and on our television sets in recent years seem to show a dramatic improvement in prison life:  college and seminary courses, community college affiliations, new programs offering vocational training, new dog-training programs, new and improved arts and hobby-craft projects.  But the reality is:  Prison is still hell!  Pure and simple.  No if, and, or but about it.  And while the reformers and politicians are grabbing the headlines about our improvements, you can be assured that there are enough of the old guard, the hard line establishment, to make sure that prison remains hell.  Retribution and punishment are rife!  Rehabilitation and restoration are almost non-existent!

We are as guilty as others in painting a rosy picture.  If HFP hopes to raise enough money to fund a smooth operation, we must demonstrate success.  We must show not only how many prisoners are contacting us, but also how many we are helping.  And so we do our best to talk about results. 

But what breaks my heart is when we cannot help!


Robert is a 56 year old white man who has served 30 years.  He’s not only eligible for parole, but he should be paroled.  He minds his own business, stays out of trouble, helps other prisoners, plays his guitar for the church praise band, and stays in touch with his 80-year-old mother.

For some unexplained reason he got transferred to one of the state’s more unpleasant facilities in the Upper Peninsula this week, disrupting his life and placing him out-of-reach for his elderly mom.

That wasn’t all.  When he arrived at the new facility, all of his earthly goods were dumped on the floor, and officers started labeling things “contraband.”  One of his footlockers containing his precious legal documents was labeled “contraband.”  He was told that guitar amps are not allowed at that facility, and if he didn’t send it out within 30 days it would be destroyed.  When he tried to protest, the guard shouted that if he argued he would write him a “Class 1” ticket, and he would throw him in the hole for possessing “escape paraphernalia” because he owned a pair of leather gloves.  They forced him to sign some document that he couldn’t even read, because at that point they still had refused to give him his glasses. For the moment, all of his legal documents are being held hostage.

But Robert still had hope, because this could be the year for his release

Said he:  “Thinking that my chances are really good for parole, I didn’t want to rock the boat.”

And then, the very next day, the boat sank.  He received a 5-year flop.  He must remain behind bars for another 5 years.

“I just can’t believe God would put all this pressure on me like this.”

He’s begging for help, and we can’t give it. “I’m feeling overwhelmed.”  He’s not alone.  I’m not only at a loss to find the right actions, here.  I can’t even find the right words.  I’m praying.  That’s the extent of it for now.  It would be nice if you’d pray for him, too.

Robert feels all alone in a prison, in a world, that today seems like hell.

1 comment:


Robert is definitely being tested. It is crucial that he remain strong in belief and full of faith that this is his proper path. Robert, it sounds like, has had exemplary behavior for a long time. Recently being taken from surroundings familiar to him, his worldly possessions removed and given a 5 year "flop."

What will Robert do? Individuals in his life, including prison officials, are asking the same thing. God is asking. This is a cross road for Robert. One of those moments which will determine his future. Robert needs to continue as he has been doing for the last 30 years. Continue in his faith, continue believing and continue having hope. But Robert already knows this to be the answer.

Robert is only now in that final lap to his new life on the other side of the fence. As long he doesn't pick the path, giving into the evils of anger, discouragement and hopelessness. The human evils would love to say "we knew he wasn't a changed man." Unfortunately it seems people thrive on others misfortunes when not feeling adequate themselves. Robert needs to continue being strong in faith and strong in hope. He is leading by example and inspiring many.

Flops are often reviewed considerably before it has been fully served, possibly in a year or two years time on a 5 year flop. Often a test to see how Robert will react to the flop given.

Visiting the law library and researching the parole process, specifically the required reasoning to be met for issuance of a 5 year "flop" continuance. The standards for issuance is harder to meet than the typical 1 - 2 year "flop."

The above comment is not to be considered legal advice. The comment has been provided in exercise of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. If you have legal questions you may want to seek the legal assistance of an attorney.