Showing posts from May, 2020


Melissa Cedillo has a word of advice for prison ministries: It’s time to get your hands out of your pockets! The graduate student at Harvard Divinity admits, in a recent Sojourners Magazine article, that at one time she considered becoming a prison chaplain. Then, she says, the more she discovered how our prison system exploits incarcerated people, their families, and their communities, she changed her mind. Just going into prisons and teaching Bible lessons doesn’t cut it, according to Melissa. If prison ministries do this “ without addressing root causes, (it) merely allow the prison system to continue practices and policies that strip away the dignity of those experiencing incarceration. This is not something I believe is pleasing to Christ.” Whoa! Commenting on the fact that black Americans, who only account for 13% of the total population, make up 40% of our incarcerated population (it’s no different in Michigan), she accuses the American prison system of having

Willie aint’ goin’ home! Neither is Nancy. Neither is Mark. Neither is Andre’. Neither is Troy. Neither is Tracy…

From news sources this week: MLive: A former United Auto Workers vice president and Flint union boss has been released from a federal prison’s minimum security satellite camp and is expected to finish his sentence through home confinement, part of the federal government’s efforts to expedite the release of eligible inmates during the COVID-19 emergency. Federal inmate records show the transfer occurred this week, putting Norwood Jewell, 62, in the custody of a Residential Reentry Management field office in Detroit, which is expected to transition him from a halfway house to home confinement. Politico: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort — who was serving a 7½-year sentence on charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller — was released to home confinement Wednesday due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in federal prisons, a lawyer said. Need I even say any more? Fredric Neuman, MD: Someone wrote a book—and then a musical—about ho

Putting a face to a name, a name to a number, a number to a story

We are sad to report the death of a prisoner who tested positive for COVID-19. The prisoner had originally been housed at Lakeland Correctional Facility. There have now been 50 prisoners in MDOC custody to pass away from this virus. That was the Sunday report from the Michigan Department of Corrections. Today, four more deaths were added to the list. He’s a former police officer who made one mistake in 1986. He spent the next 44 years behind bars. For the record, the prisoner’s name, in that Sunday dispatch, was Vernard Washington. Never mind that he had             -heart problems (quadruple bypass, pacemaker)             -colon problems (colon mistakenly nicked during surgery)             -prostate problems             -swollen legs (needed a walker for mobility). Vernard Washington This 73-year-old black man belonged in prison, and that’s where he was going to stay! That, according to the Michigan Parole Board in 2018, after granting Mr. Washington a Pu

Mother’s Day came in July for Maurice’s Mom

On Mother’s Day, 2020, I’ve chosen to pay tribute to mothers of prisoners by telling the story of Maurice Carter’s mother. Our guest writer was a student at the University of Wisconsin when the Carter story was being played out. Taken from The story of one man, the face of 200,000, By Clarissa Driban, CURB magazine, 2006       In the modest living space of a rundown Gary, Indiana home, they gathered: Doug Tjapkes, Reverend Al Hoksbergen and Elizabeth "Mama" Fowler. A Mother’s Day tradition, they piled in the crowded room, bearing gifts, and hoping to bring happiness to an aging woman whose health was failing. Meant to be quality time with Fowler, for Doug, it was a constant reminder of someone’s absence. He forced a smile, masking his thoughts to cover his pain. It was to be a joyous ceremony. It’s for Maurice, he reminded himself. “Maurice sent this pretty flower to you,” Doug said, offering the plant to a delighted Elizabeth Fowler. “He did? That Maurice, h

Jesus wept. Are we?

I’m just stewing! I’m no longer a broadcast journalist. Now I’m simply a prisoner advocate, trying to hold the hands of people behind bars, as well as their friends and loved ones, during this pandemic. Right now I’m fretting, after hearing these updates:             -More than a quarter-million people have died from Covid 19                    72,000 in the United States                    More than 4,000 in Michigan                    More than 40 in Michigan prisons. Maybe I’m missing something, but I’m not hearing a lot of weeping. I remember when George H. W. Bush received his party's nomination for president of the United States in 1988. In his acceptance speech, he called for a "kinder, gentler nation."   Who can forget that day in 2001, when terrorism raised our blood pressure to new heights? Two days after 9/11, in a press conference, the Christian Science Monitor’s Francine Kiefer asked President George W. Bush: "About the prayer

Very good people? Sez who?

We had a shameful demonstration at the State Capitol this week. God knows that I’ve taken stands in the past in favor of protests. But this protest against our Governor over stay-at-home orders was ridiculous. Perhaps a better word is shameful.   I saw photos of -a man swarming the capitol in tactical gear carrying a high-powered weapon -a guy (mask-less) screaming in the face of a police officer -a demonstrator carrying a sign calling our Governor a “bitch” -a person waving a confederate flag -someone throwing a noose over a branch! At the end of the day, all of these people went home . Freedom of speech, we call it. Something we all have the right to do. Today, President Trump urged Governor Whitmer to “make a deal” with those protesters. Claimed the President: “ These are very good people!” Now let me give you a few examples of some other folks who, at one time in their lives, did not get to go home. These are some of the people we deal with on a daily bas