Parole Board, you done stomped on my heart!

Let my heart be broken by the things that break God’s heart.
 Prayer by Bob Pierce, often quoted by HFP’s physician/consultant.

I’ve written time and again about changes in Michigan’s parole system that we feel would be beneficial. It has been our position for years that Parole Board reform is long overdue. But if we’re not careful, we wind up talking about practices, procedures and decisions, and we forget all about the human factor.

It’s like when we talk about mass incarceration. We toss around numbers and statistics, and forget that these are real people! There’s a face attached to every one of those numbers.

My friend Fred had a delicious sense of humor. He delighted in reviewing country and western songs, chuckling about the lyrics, and referring to unusual titles. The one that especially hit his funny bone was this one, as recorded by John Denver in 1977:  You Done Stomped on my Heart and You Mashed that Sucker Flat!

I often think of that title when we receive another message of disappointment from persons behind bars who’ve been rejected, not by a lover, but by the Michigan Parole Board. And then I don’t laugh any more.

Yes, our team has a lot of ideas for Parole Board reform, but even reform wouldn’t eliminate all of the heart-breaking decisions being handed down.

-At the time of his 5-year review, the PB coldly informs a lifer that it has “no interest”
-Compassionate release is denied to a terminally ill woman
-A wrongly convicted inmate is informed that without an admission of guilt, parole cannot and will not be considered
-Recommendation for commutation is denied to a battered woman who has spent years behind bars for taking things into her own hands when her husband tried to kill her
Late-in-life release is denied to a geriatric lifer who simply wants to die at home with family.

Perhaps Alexander Pope is right when he says: “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” 

But I can tell you this: When these stories cross our desk, our heart is broken all over again. There’s never been a callous tough enough to shield or protect our hearts. We love these people, and we care. When they hurt, we hurt.

Thank God for this message from the Psalmist:

"He heals the broken-hearted, and bandages their wounds."


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