Showing posts from June, 2018

Stuff getting you down? Elijah's story will help!

I love the Old Testament stories! Just the other day I was reading about feisty old Elijah, who got fed up with prophets of a false god named Baal. It was time to put up or shut up. Each side would prepare a slaughtered bull for sacrifice. But they wouldn’t actually light the wood on fire. They’d ask their god to do that. Problem is, old Baal didn’t come down and help, as the prophets had hoped. No matter all the dancing, praying, screaming and self-mutilation, no response. “Perhaps he’s taking a crap,” Elijah taunted. Maybe he was, but he certainly wasn't striking a match. Then, to better prove his point, before calling on God to set fire to his sacrifice, Elijah did one more thing to prove his point. He had his servants pour water over everything on the altar. Time and again, barrel after barrel. After 12 large kegs full, the water was even overflowing into a trench around the altar. Then he called on God to show his stuff. Scripture tells us that “the fire of t

Civility: Is it gone for good?

A restaurant refuses to serve the Trump Administration’s Press Secretary. President Trump, unwilling to let the situation go, says the restaurant is probably “unsanitary.” Diners shout unpleasant remarks as Governor Snyder and his wife try to enjoy a meal together. A bakery refuses to bake a cake for a gay couple. Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh labels a Georgetown University law student with whom he disagrees a “slut” and a “prostitute.” Has Martin Luther King's idea of peaceful protest vanished? In TV newscasts we see people of differing opinions screaming, sometimes fighting, sometimes even shooting. In places where we least expect it, such as in church or family circles, we find people saying rude things to each other. Sometimes we use scripture to justify it. “Righteous indignation,” we claim. The Lord knows I’m in favor of protest. I was a known protestor as a broadcast journalist. The organization that I founded nearly 18 years ago systematically

Man's inhumanity to man: Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse!

From Wikipedia: The phrase " Man's inhumanity to man " is first documented in the  Robert Burns  poem called  Man was made to mourn: A Dirge  in 1784. It is possible that Burns reworded a similar quote from  Samuel von Pufendorf  who in 1673 wrote, "More inhumanity has been done by man himself than any other of nature's causes." It’s all I can think about these days, as our beloved nation swirls in the shameless cesspool of immigration issues that include mistreatment, tearing families apart, and locking up little kids. I’m old enough to remember the holocaust, and I’m old enough to remember the Japanese internment camps of World War Two. Besides that, I deal with man’s inhumanity to man every day. Our team sees it regularly as we work with Michigan inmates in the state prison system. Stories come to our office daily from prisoners who are sick or injured, who are mentally ill, who struggle with gender identity, who are gay, or who have been

The AAG's recommendation: worthless!

The Public Hearing is a big deal for those Michigan prisoners fortunate enough to get one. It often leads to freedom. The Public Hearing, as we have explained many times in the past, is conducted by the Michigan Parole Board. Its purpose is to determine if a prisoner is fit and ready to reenter society. It is held on the campus of a Michigan prison and chaired by a member of the Parole Board. Another participant is an Assistant Attorney General, who does the lion’s share of the questioning. For more than a decade, AAG Scott Rothermel has participated in hundreds of such hearings. I’m not going to focus on differences of opinion with him. Today I want to focus on his recommendation to the Parole Board. At the conclusion of each session, Mr. Rothermel explains to the inmate that the final decision regarding the outcome is completely up to the Parole Board. He does not have a vote, he says, and can only make a recommendation. Then he goes on to recommend against the prisone

It's time to raise the age, and you can help!

I love teenagers! And we’re doing them a real disservice here in our state. If you’re a Michigander and the parent of a 17-year-old, you probably know most of this already. But here’s a reminder…important information for all of us. Your 17-year-old cannot vote. Your 17-year-old cannot serve in the military. Your 17-year-old cannot buy a pack of cigarettes. Your 17-year-old cannot purchase a six-pack of beer. BUT, your 17-year-old can be arrested as an adult, tried as an adult, and placed in an adult prison! An article in the Grand Rapids Business Journal points out that between 2003 and 2013, nearly 20,300 youth were convicted as adults in Michigan. 95% were 17 at the time of the offense. Some were even younger. This has to stop! HFP has been remiss in not focusing more attention on this earlier and more often. It recently came to our attention again when we noticed that the State of Missouri has adopted legislation raising the age. That means that Mic

Prisoner medical co-pay: A terrible idea!

If your doctor charged a $500 co-pay for every visit, how bad would your health have to get before you made an appointment?  That’s the question Wendy Sawyer asked last year, in a Prison Policy Initiative blog. She was talking about the shameful co-pay policy for prisoners. 42 states have co-pay policies, ranging from $3.50 to $8 per visit. Here in the State of Michigan, prisoners are charged $5 for every visit to the health center. BUT, keep in mind the prisoner pay scale. Michigan inmates can earn as little as 75 cents a day, or at the peak, up to about $3.35 per day.   So, according to the estimates calculated by PPI, the average Michigan prisoner would have to work 35 hours a week to make one co-payment. That’s just unacceptable! I bring all of this up because I just learned that Illinois lawmakers have eliminated the medical co-pay plan for prisoners. Illinois prisoners make 5 cents an hour, so the $5 co-pay was roughly equivalent to a month’s wages. The main argumen

OK, it's time NOW for a change in bedside visits!

First it was David’s parents (See blog post dated “The system needs a heart” dated April 18). Now it’s Terry’s brother. His message to me: My question is, why wasn’t the family notified that my sister was in such poor health and on her deathbed? When I called the prison to see when I could visit, I was informed that if a prisoner was that sick, they would have been transferred to a hospital and no longer be in the prison infirmary. Also, was told I could not visit until Friday, June 1. Unfortunately, my sister passed away on Tuesday, May 29, the day I called . I had wanted to visit her that day. I’m sure the medical personnel were aware of her condition. I can’t believe the prison system would not want family to visit a dying inmate. That is just so inhumane. Can you tell me if this is normal protocol for prisons? I’m just heartbroken that I was not allowed to see her before she passed. The sad story of Terry’s death is related in our previous blog, posted just prior