Showing posts from July, 2019

He's not a person, he's a prisoner!

Pastor Nate was making the point that all humans are created in the image of God. That’s when he made reference to the shameful period in US history when we had the Three-Fifths Compromise. The Three - Fifths Compromise  was a compromise reached among state delegates during the 1787 United States Constitutional Convention…a plan to count three out of every five slaves as people for this purpose. In other words, the votes of 5 blacks totaled 3. Today, I’m accusing the State of Michigan of reducing the status of prisoners to the “non-person” level. Blacks were not three-fifths of a person back in 1787, just as prisoners are not “non-persons” today in Michigan. Our state refuses to allow prisoners the right to file requests under the state’s FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT, and that’s a step in the wrong direction. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)---signed into law in 1976---provides for public access to most records of public bodies. Here’s how it was originally worded:

July 24: Matt & Maurice, and how those two lives intersected

July 24 is special, no doubt about it! It’s the birthday of Matt Tjapkes, and it’s the day that Maurice stepped out of prison as a free man…the first time in 29 years! On July 24, 2019, I reflect, in awe, on how this indigent black man from Gary, Indiana, and his touching account of a wrongful conviction, changed the career paths of two professional broadcasters. True, I started working to help free Maurice Carter in the late 1990s while selling church organs. But I was intent on returning to the field of radio broadcasting, a career I loved that began in 1954. It never happened. Instead, in 2001 at the urging of my brother Maurice Carter, I founded a non-profit organization called INNOCENT, later to be known as HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS. And never looked back. But our story today is about Matthew, another professional broadcaster, whose specialty is sports coverage. Matt, our youngest son, was still in school when I embarked on the quest to free Maurice, thus the story

Points our new Michigan AG should consider

We’ve complained a lot, over the years, about the performance and the role of Assistant Attorney General Scott Rothermel in Michigan Parole Board Public Hearings. We were rather surprised that Rothermel, who served under former State AG William Schuette, continued on under newly-elected Democrat Dana Nessel. We believe that if AG Nessel, whose philosophy and that of former AG Schuette are miles apart, chooses to keep Rothermel on the job, she could and should steer him in a different direction. I bring up these issues after reviewing two independent surveys which grade Michigan’s parole system at C-minus. Prison Policy Initiative says, for example, that Prosecutors should not be permitted to weigh in on the parole process. Their voices belong in the courtroom when the original offense is litigated. Decisions based on someone’s transformation or current goals should not be contaminated by outdated information that was the basis for the underlying conviction or plea bargain.

Where is Edith when we need her?

Marcia and I are watching ALL IN THE FAMILY reruns, and we’re laughing, once again, at Archie “Bunkerisms.” Norman Lear’s attack on our problems, especially racism, was daring back in the 70s. But as we watch, we’re starting to wonder just how much, or little progress, has really been made in the U.S. Take the time that Sammy Davis, Jr., made a guest appearance on the show. Archie Bunker: “Now, no prejudice intended, but I always check with the Bible on these here things. I think that, I mean if God had meant for us to be together he'd a put us together. But look what he done. He put you over in Africa, and put the rest of us in all the white countries. Sammy Davis Jr.:  “ Well, he must've told 'em where we were because somebody came and got us.” A position some of our nation’s leaders might take today! Little did I know, back in the 70s, that racism would become so close to my heart. 20 years later, I began a 9-year trek on the road to freedom for a

What kind of gospel is that?

I’m going to start this piece with a confession. I don’t believe there has ever been a bigger hypocrite to darken the door of a church than this writer. I stand guilty before you and before God. Having said that, I’m going to grumble a bit. I think the church should take stronger stands on certain social issues. I was appointed to a committee some years ago to make recommendations to the synod of my denomination, the Christian Reformed Church of North America, regarding capital punishment. We urged the denomination to take a stand against the death penalty, for a number of reasons, but our recommendation was denied. Sadly, as of today, there’s still no firm opposition to the practice. There are numerous and even more controversial matters that deserve thoughtful discussion in the church. Granted, different and varied interpretations of scripture will result in lengthy deliberations on some topics and final positions won’t come quickly. And they shouldn’t. But how hard

Black and white issues give me a red face!

It came back to me in a heartbeat. Bryan Stevenson was relating the experiences of a wrongly-convicted black guy to a popular TV network journalist the other day. “I didn’t do it,” swore the suspect. “Listen,” said the cop, “You’re going to jail. Take a look. White prosecutor. White judge. All-white jury!” No reference was made to the court-appointed defense attorney, but you can darn betcha that he was white, also. The police officer’s words were accurate, and it took years before an Innocence Project corrected this injustice. If the name Bryan Stevenson doesn’t ring a bell, I must confess that he’s a hero in my mind. I’ve met him, and I’ve chatted with him. Bryan A. Stevenson is an African-American lawyer, social justice activist, founder and executive director of Equal Justice Initiative. His story over the weekend brought the Maurice Carter battle right to the forefront of my mind again. My brother Maurice, of Gary, Indiana, was arrested in Benton Harbor, Michiga

Give us this day our daily bread

How was your holiday picnic? Sounds like Americans really enjoyed their picnics on the 4 th !  Check out these advance numbers from the National Retail Federation: Eighty-six percent of Americans plan to celebrate Independence Day this year, spending a total $6.7 billion on food items, according to NRF’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. And, Planned per person spending on food items for Independence Day: $73.33. While we were enjoying our hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs and pork barbecues, there wasn’t any change in the menus behind bars. After hearing those holiday statistics, I contacted the Michigan Department of Corrections Office in Lansing for an up-to-date figure on the food budget. You’ll be pleased to know that, here in Pure Michigan,  "$2.85 per prisoner per day to cover all three meals is the goal for the normal menu." ! I was raised in the upstairs apartment of a neighborhood grocery store, back in the 30s a

A contemplative 4th?

When I heard the cost of a military display for our nation’s Independence Day observance, my first reaction was to write a blistering piece of disagreement. But I’ve changed my mind on that, and on all the other concerns that I have about our nation’s direction. Instead, for this Fourth of July, I’m going to simply suggest discussion topics. Those who know me completely understand how difficult it is for me not to put in my two cents’ worth. So, here’s the format. I’m going to give you a famous quote. Then I’ll supply a couple of headlines to serve as holiday discussion starters. The rest is up to you. Here goes. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Statue of Liberty HEADLINES: Squalid Conditions at Border Detention Centers, Government Report Finds New York Times Migrant father and d