Showing posts from March, 2021

Holy Week means hope for prisoners

Everybody loves a “second chance.” Unless it’s for a prisoner. Then we have “second thoughts.”   Prosecutors and victims’ rights groups argue that those who lost their lives in heinous crimes won’t get a second chance. Why, then, should the perpetrator?   And so, unlike the country of Norway where they believe that every life is redeemable , all persons can be rehabilitated, and there is no such thing as life without parole...unlike that remarkable nation, we love life sentences and even the death penalty! Punishment and retribution reduce crime, right? (It hasn’t worked yet!)   But then, in Lent, comes the poignant story of Dismas.   And all protestants say, “Who the heck is Dismas?” Many Catholics do, as well.   Well, that’s the name that was given to the penitent thief on the cross, one of the guys getting crucified next to Jesus,   Only Dr. Luke publishes this story.   One criminal taunted Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” And then the o

Maurice H. Carter, born 3/29/44. Little did his mother know!

It’s funny how the mind works.   My brother Maurice’s birthday is here. I’m thinking how much I miss him. My mind is flooded with memories. And I’m also thinking of his mother. I used to visit his elderly mom in her tiny, ramshackle home in a deteriorating Gary, Indiana neighborhood.   She loved those visits! She loved her son!   And as I’m thinking about a mother’s love for her son, and her hopes and dreams for the lad, a song runs through my mind. It’s one of my favorite Christmas pieces, introduced to the public exactly 20 years ago: Mary, Did You Know?   To be clear, I’m NOT attempting to compare Maurice to Jesus, or Mrs. Elizabeth Fowler to the blessed virgin.   I love the poignant questions to Mary, penned by Mark Lowry and set to music by Buddy Greene: Did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water, would save our sons and daughters? Did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man, will calm the storm with his hand? Did you know that your ba

On why we tell you what goes on behind bars

I have an announcement to make. And a confession.   The announcement: I have a new book in the works...I’m hoping it will be released in a few months. The confession is that I’m rather ashamed of some of its content.   Let me explain.   As an octogenarian, I have had three distinctly different careers. My first career was that of radio newsman, and as I concluded nearly 30 years in the business, I owned and operated Radio Station WGHN right here in Grand Haven, Michigan.   As a local newsman/broadcaster, I felt it was my duty to air editorials on local issues. Unlike articles and editorials in the newspaper, which can and do get saved, many things on the air later disappear.   A former employee enjoyed those editorials, and saved copies of some 300 of them, aired between 1964 and 1978. With the kind assistance of Grand Haven’s Historical Museum and Loutit Library, we’re assembling more than 80 from that collection into a fine book that accurately reflects the social history o

On meeting “deep hunger” behind bars

When a memorial service was held for my mother, our family was astounded at the number of people who showed up whom we didn’t know or recognize. As we circulated among the crowd it became apparent that “little things” done by my mom became “big things” in the minds of many.   She was great at sending a little hand-written note, baking a pie for someone, or inviting a needy soul over for a cuppa.   Turkish playwright Mehmet Murat ildan said, “Without water drops, there can be no oceans; without steps, there can be no stairs; without little things, there can be no big things!”   I could never fill my mother’s shoes. I did learn some important lessons from her, though, and those have filtered down into Humanity for Prisoners. And because our CEO, son Matt, has some of the same genes, we’re on the same page when it comes to compassion.   With nearly 2,000 calls a month coming into our office, many are predictable. Helping prisoners file requests under the Freedom of Information Act

No sunlight for prisoners. Not in this state!

In that this is Sunshine Week, a time when we are supposed to celebrate transparency in our government, we sadly report this: Michigan ranks last among all states in government transparency!   The shameful fact is that both the Governor of the State of Michigan and our State Legislature are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act . And, whenever you and I hear that, our first question should be: What are they hiding?   But even more annoying to me is this: Michigan prisoners are not allowed to file requests under this act! Ours is only one of a handful of states with this ridiculous rule.   Let me give you a couple examples of how prisoners can use the act.   Many prisoners need “newly discovered evidence” to get their cases reopened. That can be accomplished with FOIA requests to prosecutors and police. Michigan won’t let them do it!   Prisoners rejected by the Parole Board would like to know reasons behind that decision, so they can work on improvement. The only way to

I’ll tell you where you can take your “sunshine!”

T his is Sunshine Week, a week when we are supposed to celebrate the Freedom of Information Act, something that actually holds our public officials accountable. In all states, that is, except Michigan. Our state, affectionally referred to as Pure Michigan, ranks last among states for government transparency! That according to the Center for Public Integrity. Here are three damning points you should be aware of, during Sunshine Week: -We exempt the Governor’s Office from disclosure of public information. She’s a Democrat. -We exempt the state legislature as well. Both houses are Republican. -Prisoners in Michigan are not allowed to file FOIA requests.   In his Sunday newspaper column, MLive Vice President of Content John Hilner describes barriers his reporters encounter when they try to get information. I have personally heard a public official in my county boast about how tough the FOIA Coordinator makes it for those filing requests.   And our office is keenly aware of that

Jim Crow is alive and well!

This week we remember a terrible incident that occurred in Alabama. Hundreds formed a march to Birmingham hoping to ensure the right of Black people to vote. That was in March, 1965. White cops used vicious dogs and fire hoses to show those folks just who was boss.   Not to be outdone in U.S. history books, the State Senate in neighboring Georgia---exactly 50 years later---voted to pass legislation containing a slew of restrictions to suppress voting rights. The House is sure to follow suit soon. Too many Black people voting. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s an avalanche of voter suppression bills being introduced around our country. And believe me, they’re not designed to keep white middle-classed citizens like me from voting!   Which begs the question I ask time and again: Just how much progress have we really made in leveling the playing field for people of color?   I recently read something in THE MARSHALL PROJECT that prompts my question. Take a look at this: White

A year ago everything changed; nothing changed!

It was exactly one year ago. Up until that specific date, no one except medical practitioners in the operating room ever gave thought to wearing a mask.   Now, all of us do it, all of the time. We don’t shake hands anymore. We don’t stand close to each other.   That was the dramatic change. What didn’t change in the least is our attitude toward and our treatment of Michigan prisoners. Same old same old.   One would think that, in the midst of an international pandemic, extraordinary measures would be taken to make sure staff didn’t bring in the disease. After all, restrictions were immediately enforced banning visitation by family, friends, and volunteers. The bug would have to come in somehow, right? Therefore, no outsiders allowed, period. But. the state's system was flawed.   There’s no need to outline the train wreck that followed. I’m not convinced that many of us really care...we’ve got our own health and welfare to worry about. But, for the record...   There are 3