Showing posts from April, 2019

Matt: An award winner!

Some years ago a very nice person with ties to a major university insisted that she was going to see to it that I received an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree. I tried to be kind and polite about this, but the effort was doomed before it even started. I tried to explain that showing compassion to prisoners isn’t something that attracts praise and recognition in our society. Nevertheless, she insisted. She had connections, she loved what HFP does, and she wanted the founder to get recognition. Of course, she never saw the little things that we experience daily: the subtle frowns of disapproval, the silence from those whose religious and/or patriotic beliefs supposedly involve support for those less fortunate, the lack of financial support from churches and civic organizations. Society doesn’t really like to think about prisoners. I’m not complaining…merely explaining. After all, I and those people who work with me, receive amazing awards like they don’t offer at the univer

Are you in good hands? Yep!

A guy with a big, deep, bass voice asks that question in TV commercials. At this moment of transition for HFP, the question deserves an answer. Some time ago I sent out this popular quote as Father’s Day approached: "Any man can  be a father , but it takes someone special to  be a Dad ." I bring it up today as a footnote to the public announcement that our son Matt has been appointed President and CEO of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS. At first glance, that announcement smacks of nepotism. But, in truth, it’s far from that. It’s no secret that I’ve had some serious health issues since HFP was founded in 2001. Some friends tease me about having nine lives. In situations when my future is in question, two things happen. Number one, some people see a possible opportunity to replace me. And number two, our Directors take a hard look at a possible replacement. -One highly qualified guy really wanted my job, and let our directors know that he was available. They s

If we are the "Easter People," it's time to take a stand!

Response to the tragic fire that damaged the Cathedral of Notre Dame is an excellent example of our double standards. Millions of dollars’ worth of pledges are pouring in, thus assuring restoration and reconstruction of this majestic structure. Yet, three historic churches recently burned up in Louisiana, and response hasn’t been nearly the same. As I reflect on that during Holy Week, I can only conclude that similar things can be said, similar comparisons can be made, about our treatment of people. While millions of dollars get committed for the cathedral, people in Puerto Rico still struggle to get hurricane relief, and Flint’s little kids still struggle to find clean drinking water. We righteously quote the Constitution: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Except Native and African American

For the season of Lent, I couldn't write a script like this!

I can’t plan Lenten experiences. But I can tell you about this one…one of the best, ever! April 11, 2019. I was invited to the law office of John Smietanka in Grandville, Michigan, for a small, private reception for ex-offender James Hicks. Jimmy was released two weeks ago after serving 35 years. He’s the first to admit that he was guilty of a crime. But, while in prison, he turned his life around and decided to help the authorities. In the ensuing years, he helped state and federal agencies solve at least 8 major cases. It was 14 years ago when another prisoner introduced me to James Hicks. He explained that the state had offered to reduce Jimmy’s sentence if he would agree to testify in a murder trial. Well, he testified, the Prosecutor got a conviction, and then the state re-thought the whole matter and said, “Nah, I don’t think so.” That’s when I jumped aboard. Here’s what you must know about me, and about HFP: We hate injustice, we love the undesirable and un

Simple problems aren't all that simple behind bars!

Under normal circumstances, it would take just a few minutes to solve problems like this. 1.     I have ants in my bedroom. 2.     I need the copy of a report from our County Prosecutor’s Office. 3.     I have a medical condition that demands that I wear tinted eye-glasses. 4.     I need the latest info on how PTSD affects behavior The solutions are as easy as -Calling the exterminator -Filing a request under the Freedom of Information Act -Getting a prescription from your ophthalmologist -Going online and Googling the topic. Easy, that is, unless you’re behind bars. I list these four simple examples in response to this question that we hear so often: Just what does HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS do? These are the types of issues our HFP team members tackle 7 days a week, as they seek to provide practical assistance to Michigan prisoners who have very real, everyday needs. Ann’s cell was filled with ants. She wondered if she was sleeping on an ant’s nest

Bullying: Never OK!

“…where is it written that we must act if we do not care, as if we are not moved? Well, I am moved. I want a kinder and gentler nation.” President George H.W. Bush President Bush would be appalled! A political rally for our current president was held in Grand Rapids last week. The event drew thousands of people, which meant waiting for hours. It so happens, the long line snaked through the heart of the downtown area and past the facilities of Mel Trotter Ministries. Back in the olden days we knew Mel Trotter as a rescue mission. Founded in 1900, it began by helping those with substance abuse. Today it’s an impressive and expansive operation that offers “rescue and restoration for anyone experiencing hunger and homelessness.” Mel Trotter has an impressive history of helping those experiencing substance abuse, as well as battered women and homeless kids. It even offers shelter space for those who identify themselves as transgender. Anyway, the CEO of Mel Trotter issued