Showing posts from November, 2017

HFP: Not down for the 10 count!

HFP is still here, but not for lack of trying by the forces of evil. Founded in 2001 under the name INNOCENT and based on the dream of Maurice Carter, our organization not only quickly proved its worth, but gained in popularity among prisoners. So, the first attempts to quash our efforts were rather mild. Maurice died in 2004. His dream lived on. Free office space ended in 2009 when our building was sold. We moved from Muskegon to Grand Haven, found a low-rent room, and continued. Then came the major artillery. I was attacked by a brutal staph infection in 2010. My kids flew home, I lost 65 pounds, was on a feeding tube for 6 months, but survived! And HFP’s work continued unhindered, thanks to my wife, my son and a dynamite intern! All prisoner emails were shut down in 2015. HFP had been unknowingly violating two MDOC policies. Productive discussions in Lansing; apologies, compromise, and email service was restored. Black Friday gained new meaning in 2017!

Doing little things for little people is big!

I don’t wish for hurricanes, earthquakes, or any kind of natural disaster. But there are days when I wish we had some kind of a spectacular accomplishment that might help major donors and wealthy foundations to recognize our value in our unique role. No, we haven’t been sending material goods, food or dollars to stricken victims around the world. Instead, we’ve been Trying to get a rescue inhaler to a prisoner who’s struggling with asthma attacks Putting the finishing touches on a 9-month project where we got traffic fines paid for an indigent mother in Detroit, thus enabling her to resume visits with her two sons in prison…visits that got banned 3 years ago by unpaid traffic tickets Doing our best to get a new typewriter ribbon for a wrongly-convicted inmate in the U.P. who needs his typewriter to prepare his own legal documents Rushing to get clothing and shoes for an indigent ex-offender who found, upon his release, that the half-way house to which he had been a

What's in the brown paper bag?

On this Thanksgiving Day, 2017, I’d like to share a beautiful story...a story not written by me. I feel certain that Luis Ramirez would be honored to have us pass along what he has written, but I can't ask him. He's dead. This message came to me from Death Row in Texas a few years after our organization was formed. We hear a lot of stories about prisoners. As President of HFP, though, I think it's important for all of us to be reminded that prisoners are people, they have feelings and emotions, and as I understand it, all are created in the image of God. Anyway, here’s my Thanksgiving gift to you today...a story from the late Luiz Ramirez:  (In all caps, just the way he sent it) I CAME HERE IN MAY OF 1999...A TSUNAMI OF EMOTIONS AND THOUGHTS WERE GOING THROUGH MY MIND.  I REMEMBER THE ONLY THINGS IN THE CELL WERE A MATTRESS, PILLOW, A COUPLE SHEETS, A PILLOW CASE, A ROLL OF TOILET PAPER AND A BLANKET.  I REMEMBER SITTING THERE, UTTERLY LOST. THE FIRST PERSO

Standing with the powerless and the voiceless: HFP at Public Hearings!

We chose to stand by two guys today. Perhaps some would call them losers.  Why, you might ask. Why speak up for someone who committed a terrible crime against humanity 30, 40 or 50 years ago? Human life seemed to mean very little to that person back then. Why suggest freedom for that kind of criminal? I’m referring to Public Hearings, sessions conducted by the Michigan Parole Board to determine if serious offenders should be paroled. I first became aware of the Public Hearing in 2004, when the Board tried to determine whether to release my friend Maurice Carter. Since that time, our office has made it a priority to speak up, when possible, for our friends. There’s something you gotta know about Public Hearings. They’re not fun. -The prisoner is nervous and, more often than not, unprepared. -The Parole Board members are concerned about freeing a dangerous person. -The Assistant Attorney General, who claims to represent all the people of the State of Michigan, tends

Feeding a prisoner for under four bucks a day!

As a teenager in the 1950s, I was a grocery bagger in my father’s supermarket. Of all the people who came for their weekly food supplies, I remember one woman who paid over $20 consistently for her grocery order. She was obviously very poor, but was the parent of a large flock of kids. I would carry her bags to the car, while her husband sat in the vehicle reading the newspaper. Usually 4-5 bags, filled to the brim. Not many people spent that kind of money on groceries. Today, in 2017, I did the grocery shopping for Marcia and me. I paid $104 and some odd cents! Two octogenarians do not consume a lot of food, and I don’t purchase filet mignon and caviar. I’m fully aware of the fact that those entities that purchase large amounts of food can save plenty. I did some checking on school meals. The latest statistics I could find showed the average cost of lunch for an elementary school student was $2.34. That’s a deal! I bring up all of this stuff because my mind is still reeli

The kind of guys Jesus would hang out with

My friend David once said, in describing prisoners, “I think these are the kind of guys Jesus would hang out with.” I seldom write blogs when I’ve had a little quaff. Generally, I try to create the blogs in the morning when the mind of this octogenarian seems to be most productive. I admit, I’m mellow this evening. And for good reason. HFP’s wonderful volunteer Jennifer and I went to the Muskegon Correctional Facility this afternoon, at the request of the prison’s National Lifers Association Chapter, to lead a workshop on how prisoners might fill out application forms for a commutation of sentence. For background: No one knows whether Governor Rick Snyder will soften his stance and think about clemency during his last year in office. But there are many prisoners, especially lifers, especially those serving life without parole, who are hoping this might happen. That has led to business propositions from lawyers and agencies who say to vulnerable inmates: Such a deal we have