Showing posts from June, 2017

God loves them all?

75 years ago, when I was a tiny tot in Sunday School, we sang this little song: Jesus loves the little children, All the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, They are precious in his sight. Then, when we grew up, we sang the adult version in our worship services: In Christ there is no East or West, No North or South; Only one great love Inside and out. Those old songs are in my mind today, as the HFP team does its best to help those behind bars who struggle because of race, color, belief, nature of their crime, sexual orientation, gender issues.  -An inmate tries to find some Wiccan connections on the outside. -A young man writes: “my family are extremely religious and have always hated me for being gay." -An African American claims discrimination is rampant, but cannot get a rights group to even respond to his complaints. -An admitted sex offender prays for healing and a second chance. -An Asian prisoner battles a serious i

Who has sinned, this prisoner or his parents?

So what’s the big deal?  Another prisoner died.  He was only a sex offender. And that, boys and girls, IS the big deal! In my previous blog, I pointed my finger at the State of Michigan.  And rightly so.  After all, Mr. M. went to a prison doctor in 2012 complaining about coughing up blood.  The doctor asked him if he was anxious, and he replied in the affirmative, as would just about anyone coughing up blood.  So, he sent the inmate to a psychologist.  Three years later, after numerous requests, Mr. M. finally was given medical tests, only to learn that he had lung cancer and less than two years to live! I’m still troubled over his death, and today I’m pointing the finger at you and me. I hear it time and again:  He got what he had coming to him.  No, he didn’t!  His cancer was not detected, and his cancer worsened, because of poor medical care.   His punishment for the alleged offense (I say alleged because the man claimed innocence) was incarceration.   We may not,

With some change, a story like this could have a different ending

There’s gotta be a better way! I say this every time we hear another tragic story.  Well, the stories keep coming, but the better way never seems to arrive. I’m specifically focusing on sex offenders here, because I feel many aren’t getting fair treatment in Michigan.  And I’m not referring to the sex offender registry, although I have serious issues with that as well. Let me be clear at the beginning of this little diatribe:  I’m not minimizing sex offenses, and I’m not trying to make sex offenders look good.  Here’s the story of Mr. M, who got arrested 37 years ago at the age of 21.  He became eligible for parole 20 years later, but the Parole Board never saw fit to release him.  His family claims he was flopped by the board 15 times, despite a prison record that was not bad. There’s more to the story. In 2012 he started coughing up blood, and despite his requests for treatment, nothing was considered serious.  It got serious, though, in 2015, because when th

Happy Father's Day?

I’m a dad who, but for the grace of God, could be observing Father’s Day behind bars.  I’ve been talking a lot about the wrongly convicted in recent days, perhaps because there have been a couple of high profile exonerations in the news.  It’s still on my mind.  As I write this blog on the evening before Father’s Day, I’m sitting in my tiny office in the lower level of our modest condo.  My little buddy hummingbird sips from a feeder that I have positioned outside the glass sliders.  I’m having fun watching a kingfisher diving for fresh fish in the nearby pond out back.  It could be different.  I’ve never been in trouble with the law, but… My friend Matt is a wrongly convicted businessman.  He had never been in any trouble, either, until a tragic weekend when he got blamed for a crime that never even occurred.  Some innovative police officers and an ambitious prosecutor changed this man’s life forever.  That was nine years ago.  He’ll be observing Father’s Day in prison for fo

Oops, Sorry. Your 17 year imprisonment was a mistake!

Maybe it’s because I don’t have a college education like the folks do in the courthouse, or under the capitol dome.  And here, for the past 8 decades, I believed that those simple lessons taught by my parents and my Sunday School teachers, were true:  What you sow, that shall you reap.  Wrong! Here’s the reason for my reflections today. Over the weekend I’m watching the network news, and I see that this black dude is freed after serving 17 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.  But the explanation was a simple one:  the real criminal looked just like him!  Could have been his twin!  So now even the poor guy walking free seems to have a forgiving spirit.  It was an honest mistake. Wait until he figures out he can’t get those 17 years back. Wait until he tries to get a job.  Wait until he looks at his bank balance. Wait until he wonders how to stop the nightmares that routinely wake him up during the night. But back to my point.  The educated folks do

The longest prisoner email in history,and how we handled it poorly

I made a mistake.  I brushed off a prisoner who is mentally challenged.  Now I’m struggling with guilt feelings. It all began when the guy wrote to tell me about a sinister plot…a prison physician had secretly implanted a chip in him, and he was worried.  But his communication with HFP didn’t end there.  A couple days later, he sent the longest email message ever received by this office.  I’m thinking it probably broke every record through JPay, the prison email system.  The letter totaled 8,400 words!  Will said that it took him 9 hours to write that message, supporting his fears! And that’s precisely the point where our staff must sit back and take a closer look. Instead, because of record-breaking numbers of messages from prisoners, their families and their loved ones, we simply explained to him that we were not equipped to handle issues like that.  On to the next guy, and problems we can better deal with.  That wasn’t quite fair.  What we keep forgetting, and what

Wait 'til it's someone close to you. Then you'll care!

It seemed to have many reasons why we should turn down a plea for help.  A claim of wrongful conviction (all prisoners say they are innocent!); the accused was a gay man (we prefer not to talk about the gay and lesbian community!); and sex between gay men (makes us gag to think about it!).  Yet, Gary’s case was one that our fledgling little organization, then called INNOCENT, gladly took on in 2005. I’m reminded of it because I received this message a few days ago : I felt the need to inform you - on what would have been Gary’s 55th birthday - that he died due to cancer on May 12. He had been falsely imprisoned since April 2003.  Thank you for your past efforts on his behalf. At least he is free from prison and pain now. Those were the days when we were still starry eyed and filled with boundless enthusiasm, thinking we could help to reverse wrongful convictions anywhere in the country.  Gary was in California.  At that time we had a working relationship with a profession

Sorry, there's no wiping that smile off our face!

Some guy tore us to shreds this week.  The email message was lengthy and bitter, and arrived from a Michigan prisoner who wasn’t pleased with the way we handled an issue.  It’s a simple fact that when we’re dealing with hundreds of people, we’re not going to please them all. But I must tell you, he’s not wiping the grin off our collective faces at the office of HFP this week! -For two years we’ve been trying to help Jim find a daughter he hasn’t communicated with in 18 years.  We finally made it happen! Just wanted to inform you that I got a letter from my daughter today. She was at the address that you provided me with. I was very happy to get the letter. I wanted to thank you for your time and efforts. If there ever is anything I can do for HFP please do not hesitate to ask!  -For fifteen years we’ve been trying to get help for Ray, who has served 44 years on a wrongful conviction.  We finally got him hooked up with a potential new network TV series! I had a very, ve