Showing posts from May, 2021


TWTWTW, better known as TW3, was the title of a BBC TV comedy show in the 1960s. The letters stood for these words: That was the week that was!   Today I’m reminded of that title. This has been one amazing week! Not one, but two clients of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS, both wrongly convicted, walked free!   The good news: Ray Gray and Gilbert Poole are free!   The bad news: Combined, they spent 80 years behind bars for something they didn’t do!   The big question: Will either of them ever get paid by the state?   Raymond Gray, 69, served 48 years after being convicted of killing someone in an armed robbery. He was actually at home at the time. Sadly, he was not exonerated. His attorney was able to arrange a plea deal with the Wayne County Prosecutor and a judge. Ray walked out of the Muskegon Correctional Facility Tuesday afternoon.   Gilbert Poole, 56, served 32 years after being convicted of stabbing a man to death in Pontiac. This many years later, DNA evidence proved conclusi

This prize fighter deserves some prize money!

In the words of a New York umpire decades ago, I calls ‘em like I see’s em!   I see Ray Gray’s victory this week as bittersweet! And here’s why. He’s now a free man, and we praise God for that! But the state’s not going to pay him a cent, and we damn the state for that!   Legal scholars may scoff at me, judges and prosecutors may brush me off, but here’s how I see’s it!   Raymond F. Gray, 69, of Detroit, was convicted by a judge in an armed robbery shooting death in 1973. Some legal experts have said all along that the evidence was questionable, and Ray has steadfastly maintained his innocence. Those who know him have no doubt that he is innocent.   Now here’s an important point in my story. In 2016 the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act was approved in Michigan. The money’s not easy to get, but if it can be proven that a person was wrongly convicted, that person is entitled to $50,000 per year for the time spent behind bars!   Are you starting to get the picture?   Ra

Bad person in prison? More likely, poor person in prison!

For the past 20 years or so I’ve been vocal about mass incarceration. Our prisons are too full. Our nation’s incarceration rate is matched by no other country.   I’m starting to change my mind.   Oh, I agree that many people in our prisons should be released. Right now! It’s estimated that between 2.3 and 5% of all U.S. Prisoners are innocent! That’s over 100,000 people.   Then consider those still in prisons over non-violent drug charges, those who were seriously overcharged and/or over-sentenced by over-zealous prosecutors and judges, the indigent who couldn’t afford good defense.   Think of all the spouse abuse victims spending time behind bars because they fought back. Think of the sad number of old-timers in prison who, statistics prove, will never reoffend, but who cannot be released because of life-without-parole guidelines.   The list goes on and on.   But here’s my point. Granted, our prisons are too full, but I also think they’re too full of the wrong people!  

A soft answer turneth away wrath!

As so often happens, something I’m watching or something I’m reading triggers thoughts for a blog. Tuesday evening I was privately fuming about the attack on our nation’s capitol. People get all worked up over a lie, a non-issue, to the point where they actually get involved with guns and violence. But when it comes to the inhumane treatment of thousands upon thousands of prisoners, we decide that maybe we should have a meeting and talk about it.   By Wednesday morning, I couldn’t wait to get to the computer to get started on my Thursday “mad-as-hell” essay.   It’s easy to explain that if the state did things the right way, HFP wouldn’t be very busy. For example, we file FOIA requests for those behind bars because the state won’t let them do it. We have a panel of doctors helping because prison health care is abominable.   Then I started running out of steam, so I contacted Matt. Why do we spend so much time emailing photographs, searching for family members, and just providing

Are we mad, yet? If not, why not?

“ ' I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore’ declared the longtime news anchor Howard Beale in the 1975 film classic Network . In the picture, people everywhere toss open their windows and repeat the catchphrase with a barbaric yap. They rush to the streets in maddening throng to air their grievances.” Jeff DeGraff, Ph.D, Psychology Today   People are funnier than anybody ! That was the title of a Spike Jones record when I was a little kid.   But it’s true. They storm the state capitol and capitol hill in Washington DC over the “big lie,” a proven non-issue, but when it comes to the abuse of a substantial segment of our population in prison, we just sit here and take it.   HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS can keep right on responding to thousands upon thousands of requests, complaints and pleas from people living in our state prison system. - We can file hundreds and hundreds of FOIA requests for those behind bars, because our state refuses to call them “persons.” -

You'll go down in history, Rick!

Remember this name: Richard E. Jackson.   Rick Jackson was a prosecutor in Dallas, Texas. In the year 2000 he authorized the arrest of two homeless black men, whom he prosecuted for the murder of a local pastor. In both jury trials he got convictions, and the defendants were sent to prison for life. But here’s the deal: Jackson purposely withheld a ton of evidence!   -Eyewitnesses couldn’t identify the 2 in a police lineup. The jury never heard this! -The descriptions of the alleged killer(s) didn’t match. The jury never heard this! -The state made deals with jailhouse snitches to testify. The jury never heard this!   The reason I suggest that you remember the name of this former prosecutor is that finally a prosecutor has been penalized! He has been disbarred, and may no longer practice law in his state.   Oh, the wheels of justice grind so slowly!   It took the Innocence Project 10 years to accumulate evidence proving that Dennis Allen and Stanley Mozee were railroaded.

Super-rich buy super yachts. Super-poor become our friends!

There’s a story in the news these days that hits me the wrong way. It’s about super-rich people. Seems they can’t find enough ways to spend their money so they’re buying boats. Big boats. Some as small as 75 feet long, but many in the 400-foot category. As a result, super-yacht builders have never been so busy!   Let’s discuss the super-rich for a moment.   Today, the twenty-six richest people in the world have more wealth than the world’s poorest 3.8 billion.   Because they don’t know what to do with all that money, they buy huge private ships, spending hundreds of millions of dollars. Then they hire dozens of people to crew them, spending between $5 and $10 million a year to cruise from one hotspot to the next.     Superyachts also serve as handy floating tax havens. As a Paradise Papers investigation showed, elites go to great lengths to avoid paying taxes on their luxury purchases. Big boats are also a good place to hide other, smaller luxury purchases, like artwork and jew

Mary Trap Tjapkes: 1914 - 1995

Doug Tjapkes is a perfect example of a mother’s influence.   At Age 4   “If you’re going to keep banging on that piano, you might as well take lessons and turn that noise into music.”   Started piano lessons at age 4, switched to classical organ lessons at age 14, and at age 84 still play the piano and/or organ in church every Sunday! Music has always been an integral part of my life!   At age 12   “Look at this magazine article about a kid getting on the radio! You’re always imitating radio announcers. Why don’t you try give it a try?”   Had my first radio program at 12, my first part-time radio job at age 17, became Grand Rapids’ youngest radio News Director at age 19...and remained in the radio broadcasting business until 1983! One of my first loves, and radio is still dear to my heart!   Influence on writing   My mom submitted an exceptional poem to a teacher while attending Muskegon High School. The instructor insisted that she had plagiarized the piece, and gave h

Why the Karen Boes case is important to YOU. And its outcome!

You’ll be hearing and reading a lot about Karen Boes in the next few days. She’s the woman from Zeeland who was convicted of first-degree murder in the fiery death of her 14-year-old daughter. The state claims she set the fire.   I know that the issue of race is a factor when it comes to wrongful convictions. It’s no secret that many cases involve indigent, Black people...and that’s rotten. But Karen is a White person, living in lily-white southern Ottawa County...and she wasn’t poor.   That’s why you must pay attention to this case. I keep hammering on this! It’s no stretch of the imagination to say that YOU could be a victim someday. I can rattle off numerous names of prominent people---White, middle to upper-class people---who were wrongly convicted. A business person, a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, even a cop!   The Michigan Innocence Clinic is asking Ottawa County Circuit Court to grant Karen a new trial, and you’ll want to keep an eye on this. You see, the Assistant Prosec

Sonny is the sunny one!

Sonny writes to HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS from behind bars:   I’m writing to let you know that I appreciate your help. I’ve been dealing with this situation for over two decades and I’m glad that you exist. I have lost a lot of family, friends and loved ones over the years, and their support. HFP is that ray of sunshine when one feels hopeless! It will not be forgotten or underappreciated!   Sonny then goes on to give us the name of an incarcerated friend, asking if we can shine a little sunshine on him, as well.   Sonny doesn’t realize that we’re on a two-way street.   It’s true that we love spreading sunshine . With 50 to 100 calls and messages coming in everyday, all dealing with prison problems and issues, members of our team will do their very best to help brighten someone’s day.   BUT, it’s also important for us to let Sonny and his friends know that the reverse is also true: they shed heavenly light on our dreary days! Those 50 to 100 calls weigh on our hearts and minds,