Showing posts from August, 2017

David just picked up the first stone!

A black preacher recently challenged leaders in the Christian Reformed Church, the denomination to which I belong, with these words: We’re talking and meeting, and the world is dying. That has been my point on this prison healthcare issue all along. We love to meet and discuss these matters, and bitterly complain about the woeful lack of compassion and integrity by healthcare providers in the Michigan prison system. We love to go on Facebook and bad-mouth the whole department for allowing this shameful guise called “healthcare” to continue. We talk about writing our legislators and our Governor. We call for the dismissal of Corizon, the company with whom Michigan has contracted for prison health services. Talk, talk, talk! One horror story after another. For HFP, the talk ends now! We may be the little guy, but I’m here to report today that we’ve got doctors and lawyers on board. They’re convinced. They’re ready. Now we need evidence. No more stories about what happene

He may be in a better place now, but it was hell when he was here!

Reggie’s gone now. Looking back, prison was no place for him from the get-go. I’m here to tell his sad story today, trying to point out, once again, how the system fails people. In this case, the failure came at three levels: in the fields of mental health, justice, and physical health. Granted, people struggle with all three of these, and many more issues, daily. But I gotta tell ya, when you factor in racial minority and poverty, the struggles are amplified, and can seem insurmountable. A year before he entered prison Reggie suffered a stroke, and mentally, he was never right since then. Those close to him would sometime get turned off by his uncontrollable laughing, for example, even though he couldn’t help it. But, mental health care was elusive. Then came that prison business. Those close to him say it was a wrongful conviction…no motive, no weapon, no proof.   Justice was elusive. We see and hear and read about wrongful convictions every day, but again, factor in is

Poor medical care demands our attention. Now!

" Our lives begin to end  the day we become silent about things that matter ." - Martin Luther King, Jr.  “Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.” – Mark Twain. I use those quotes to begin this blog, because it’s past time that we do something about poor medical care in Michigan prisons. I’ll be releasing statistics this week showing that HFP has responded to more than 3,000 prisoner contacts already this year, a new record! And of those contacts, approximately 20% discuss claims of poor medical care. Just in the past few days: -Prisoner 1: I had a hip replacement, but my leg still hurts to the point I’m in tears. My hip still hurts, but healthcare has told me I don’t need therapy, and I walk with a limp because one leg is longer. Hurts so bad I can’t eat or sleep. Prisoner 2:  I had a stroke and was given physical therapy. Then I was transferred, and since I’ve been here I’ve been denied meds and physical therapy . (His

RADICAL PROPOSAL #1: Listen to prisoners!

I’ve taken some time before responding to the new prisoner mail regulations. It’s easy to throw darts at the Michigan Department of Corrections. It’s far more complicated (but certainly more productive) to offer positive ideas. I’m going to do a series of blogs under the theme RADICAL PROPOSAL, and I’m going to do my best to avoid argumentative rhetoric. I believe we have the credentials to speak out. Our Michigan case load had exceeded 1,000 by the first of this year. HFP has worked with well over 600 inmates in 2017 alone! To quote a popular TV commercial: “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.” The first in this series is about the new prison mail policy. The nation-wide opioid crisis crosses all levels of society, and the prison systems are no exception. Well aware of the drug problem in Michigan prisons, the Department of Corrections has taken radical steps to change the way mail is coming into each facility. The Department recently handed out the

Yes, indeed. We do our best to befriend and help the alleged "sex offender."

Once arrested on a sex charge, you can bet that---from that day on---your life will be hell. The sad thing is, some of the people whom we so broadly label as sex offenders, may not even be sex offenders. It may have been as simple as foolishly urinating in an alley in the middle of the night, or it may have been a wrongful conviction as the result of malicious lies told by an ex-spouse. Makes no difference. From the day of that arrest, life is hell. The cops treat them differently. The Prosecutor’s office treats them differently. The judge treats them differently. Fellow inmates behind bars treat them differently. Corrections officers treat them differently. The Parole Board treats them differently. The shameful treatment doesn’t end there. When these people get out, the state’s terribly unfair and inadequate sex offender registry brands them with a scarlet letter. Reentry is incredibly difficult. Some agencies don’t want to help them. Some, we are told

Why this wrongful conviction story is so important to all of us

God spoke to me last night. Actually, I didn’t realize it until this morning. I was watching Nightly News with Lester Holt, and saw the beautiful feature about a wrongly convicted inmate who was later exonerated, then became an attorney for an Innocence Project, and then was able to free another wrongly convicted prisoner. Tears welled up in my eyes. The hero of the story was Keith Findley , co-founder and co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project. That immediately sent my mind back to the 1990s when Professor Keith Findley and his fledgling Innocence Project took on, as one of their very early cases, the wrongful conviction of Maurice Carter, right here in Michigan. That courageous decision by Keith and his co-founder and co-director John Pray, brought about a dramatic change in my life. From that day forward I worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Keith to put together a “Carter Dream Team” to aid him and his students, including -Rubin Hurricane Carter, from the Asso