Showing posts from October, 2020

Would I be concerned about others? I wonder.

The report of Reggie’s death got me to thinking.  Reggie was not only old, but he was an old-timer, having received a sentence of life-without-parole back in the 70s. He was never going to get out of prison. He passed into glory the other day.  I got to wondering what I would do, how I would behave, if I knew that I was going to spend the rest of my life behind bars, due to my own foolishness, without even a glimmer of hope.  My preacher friend Al used to say that if he ever got locked up for a crime he did not commit, he would be a “raging bull” in prison. But Reggie was guilty. He was contrite, but that makes little difference with a life sentence. Seems to me like it would be quite easy to assume a pretty dark view of everything. To be angry at the world, as well as myself. To assume a pretty selfish wishes and desires come first, to hell with anyone else. To reject any programs for self-improvement. What would be the point? Who could care? Who would know the d

Now let me tell you about Mark!

It’s funny how things work. Two days ago I wrote a piece for this column about my brother Maurice Carter, a black man from Gary, Indiana, who spent 29 years in the Michigan prison system for a crime he did not commit. I spent the last decade of his life at his side, trying to get him out of there. And when that finally happened, he lived for only three months. Maurice died exactly 16 years ago.   Reliving that experience over the weekend, however, left me in a melancholy mood that wasn’t easy to shake.   But, as the old gospel songwriter exclaims, Joy Comes in the Morning.   On this dark, cold, rainy morning, I found myself in the car heading for Ionia, Michigan, and the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility. Pastor Nate Visker and I would be there to greet another very special friend, Mark Hartman, as he tasted freedom for the first time in nearly 12 years.   But here’s the kicker: I would never have met Mark Hartman if it hadn’t been for Maurice Carter!   I’ll give you

Maurice Henry Carter March 29, 1944 – October 25, 2004

Some things were never the same after that memorable October 25, 16 years ago. Some things never changed. What changed the most was my life!   My two careers had centered on two of my favorite things: radio and music. My 29 years as a radio broadcaster, and 21 years as a church organ salesman were just exquisite. But that all changed in the mid-1990s when I met an indigent black man from Gary, Indiana, sitting in the Michigan prison system and claiming wrongful conviction. No big deal, right? All prisoners say they’re innocent, right?   Well, the old news reporter in me smelled a rat, and I wasn’t wrong. This was an innocent man who had been caged in the hoosegow since the 1970s for something he didn’t do. Thus began a 9-year effort to free a wrongly convicted prisoner the likes of which had never been seen in the State of Michigan.   Sadly, Maurice Carter, who over time became my brother and a member of my family, was never exonerated. His release in July, 2004, was granted by

No more "Lock her up" talk!

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Let prisoners see funeral videos!

  Grieving is important because it allows us to ‘free-up’ energy that is bound to the lost person, object, or experience—so that we might re-invest that energy elsewhere. Until we grieve effectively we are likely to find reinvesting difficult; a part of us remains tied to the past. University of Washington   Over the past two decades I’ve done a lot of hurting with prisoners. Manifestations and expressions of grief can be elusive when you lose loved ones, and are unable to be present at a wake, at family gatherings, or especially at funeral or memorial services.   The Michigan Department of Corrections will permit some prisoners to be released for a few hours when a loved one dies, under certain circumstances. But, it is costly and it is risky. It’s costly because the prisoner and/or family must underwrite the cost of prison guards who will perform this transfer. And it’s risky because there is a shortage of guards in Michigan, and it’s entirely possible at the last minute that t

Shouldn't happen to a dog, let alone model prisoners!

Some of Michigan’s 29 prisons that just seem to be “hot spots ” for trouble. When prisoner reports come in from some of those facilities, eyebrows are hardly raised. We don’t like it, but we sort of expect it.   Not so, however, for the R.A. Handlon CF in Ionia. That’s where wardens and MDOC officials have proudly trotted out the college credit program offered by Calvin University, and the job training Vocational Village. Exceptional programs. Exceptional prisoners.   Let me be clear about why I’m focused on this today. I’m NOT saying it’s bad because exemplary inmates shouldn’t be treated this way. What you are about to read here should not happen to any Michigan prisoner...not the worst of the gang-bangers, not the trouble-makers in Level Five!   OK. Now the words from our whistle-blower:   I want to let you know about what is happening here at R.A. Handlon.   Following a spate of drug overdoses, administration has chosen to respond by locking down the entire compound. It i

No presidential treatment for this COVID patient!

Louie isn’t his real name. Louie is one of our whistle-blowers in the Muskegon Correctional Facility, so we’re protecting his identity.   Louie managed to avoid the coronavirus for a while, but in that particular prison it became almost impossible.   His story.   I started getting a bad sore throat last week. The sore throat turned into a horrible (worst I ever had) bronchial infection. It affected my mind in such a way that extreme anxiety set in. I would sweat profusely. My heart would race. I could not breathe. I would repeatedly hyperventilate. I thought I was either having a heart attack or a stroke. I began to have panic attacks. I couldn't sleep for fear of dying. I didn't sleep for 3 days. I felt extremely light headed and claustrophobic, to near insanity. There came a time where I made my peace with God and just waited for the death which did not come.   I begged the CO's for help. I was told to wait for a nurse to make their rounds. The first nurse instruc