Showing posts from February, 2019

Should Prosecutors have a say in Public Hearings? PPI says NO!

Last November Ottawa County Prosecutor Ron Frantz drove to Ionia to testify in a Public Hearing staged by the Michigan Parole Board. Spring Lake industrialist Ronald Redick had been convicted of killing his business partner in 1991, and the Prosecutor let it be known that, in his opinion, parole was not a good idea. Now comes an expert from Prison Policy Initiative who says Prosecutors shouldn’t even have a say in the parole process! PPI is a national organization, a think-tank that uses research, advocacy, and organizing which it claims show “how over-criminalization harms individuals, our communities, and the national well-being.” Jorge Renaud is a Senior Policy Analyst at Prison Policy Initiative, and holds a Masters in Social Work. Prior to his schooling, he spent decades in prison. His report, released by PPI just days ago--- Failure should not be an option: Grading the parole release systems of all 50 states. Michigan received a grade of C-minus. Frankly, we think t

Holding Hands: Successful on the human level; unsuccessful in raising dollars!

It’s not easy raising money to underwrite the work of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS. As a professional fund-raiser recently explained to the chairman of our Board of Directors, “Potential donors want success stories!” While we do have an occasional success story---we helped a sleep apnea patient get his CPAP device, we paved the way for a grant of commutation by the Governor, we found housing in a lovely facility for a dying inmate---more often than not, we fail. It’s kinda like climbing Sleeping Bear Dune: one step forward, three steps backward. Here at HFP, it’s not like at the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, or Pacific Garden Mission. We can’t just spew out spell-binding success stories that touch heart strings and loosen purse strings. Daily we encounter almost insurmountable problems faced by struggling prisoners. Ergo, one of the most frequent methods of helping is, as I describe it, simply “holding hands.” Our Medical Director and I will discuss, for example, a situation where

Without blacks, my life would have been colorless! Some Black History Month musings

I propose that those of us who are white make Black History Month a time for reflection, showing gratitude to God for placing people of color along our pathway. I can tell you this: African Americans helped shape the life, the personality and the mission of Doug Tjapkes. My life was never the same -after, at the age of 17 in my very first radio job, hearing Sister Mattie Davis of the Heavenly Echoes broadcast praying for the ‘policemens and firemens’ who were on duty through the night in racially insensitive Muskegon in the 50s -after meeting and hearing the Spiritualaires, a black singing group that taught me just how little white people know about a cappella gospel music -after granting the Rev. Cy Young a guest appearance on my radio show in Grand Haven in the 70s, as I listened spell-bound to his recitation of ‘I Have a Dream’ -after weeping and praying at the bedside of gospel singer Alma James Perry, whose glorious soprano voice was silenced far too early

Forget the damn roads! This needs fixing now!

I realize that our new Governor has pledged to get the roads fixed. And the Lord knows that Michigan’s infrastructure is long overdue for some serious attention. But at the moment, I’m concerned about people like Nathaniel Hatchett. The Detroit News reports today that Hatchett, age 39, of Detroit, is unable to collect $500,000 from the State of Michigan. He’s unemployed, broke, and he needs that money. Hatchett, as it turns out, spent 10 years in prison for a sexual assault he didn’t commit. He was arrested at age 17 in Sterling Heights, and spent 10 years in prison before DNA evidence exonerated him. Prosecutors dropped the charges in 2008 and he was released from the Michigan prison system. As you may recall, many of us who advocate for prisoners were able to persuade state legislators to adopt the Michigan Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act which says that wrongly convicted people are to receive $50,000 for each year spent in prison. That was easier said th

Needless spending/shameful treatment: that's Michigan!

Where are the voices of budget-minded Michigan legislators when it comes to corrections? The State of Michigan Corrections budget has been $2.2 billion annually for years, even though the state boasts that the population keeps going down. One of the simple reasons for the high cost is that we refuse to let go of parolable lifers. More than a thousand of these men and women deserve to be released, they no longer pose a threat to society, and the cost of keeping them is astronomical! While the prison system says the cost of housing a prisoner for a year is around $36,000, that figure isn’t very realistic because many of these people have serious health issues. I want to give our writer/reporter from behind bars, Ricardo Ferrell, credit for his assistance with this story. It’s one thing to talk about dollars, but it’s not fair to do so without talking about people. Ricardo has provided a few names, and I’m adding one of my own.   I stress that these are not the only peop