Showing posts from June, 2021

It's hot. And it's hell in prison!

  It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.   Yogi Berra With all the coverage these days about the proposed new Michigan budget, have you heard anything about air conditioning for state prisons? Me neither.   We’re tough on crime in this state. If they hadn’t committed the crime, they wouldn’t be doing the time. And by God, when it’s hot, they can just sweat!   Michigan’s 29 state prisons don’t have air conditioning. The news reports of heat waves in the western and eastern sections of our country remind us that it gets hot in the summer. In Michigan, too. And when it does, conditions in our prisoners become unbearable.   Courts in Wisconsin, Arizona, and Mississippi have ruled that incarceration in extremely hot or cold temperatures violates the Eighth Amendment. But those rulings had no national impact on air conditioning in prisons.   Except for special units, Michigan’s prisons have no AC. Last year we were flooded with complaints, as the high temperature situation became

Are pigs flying in Berrien County?

The leopard cannot change its spots, nor can the tiger change its stripes Science Daily  Has Berrien County really changed? Only time will tell.  On Friday, Berrien County Circuit Court Judge Angela M. Pasula set aside the conviction of Corey Quentin McCall, who was wrongfully convicted of three counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.  On March 26, 2005, four armed men broke into a house and killed three people and shot a surviving victim during a robbery in Benton Harbor. The surviving victim eventually identified McCall as one of the gunmen after seeing his profile during the robbery for one-to-two seconds, even though the defendant was shopping in Walmart at the time.  McCall was just 23 when sentenced to serve life without parole.  Please don’t get me wrong. The fact that McCall, now 39, has been freed is wonderful. And highest praise goes to both the Michigan Attorney General’s new Conviction Integrity Unit and the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project. God bless th

That “prison funk” is bad stuff!

After spending 29 years behind bars, my friend Maurice Carter just couldn’t take enough baths and showers upon his release! He insisted that he was trying to get rid of a certain odor. “Prison funk,” he called it. After numerous baths and showers, he was convinced that the smell lingered.   In recent weeks, in preparation for another report, I’ve been reviewing sad stories about some of our friends after their return to society. These stories lead me to believe that “prison funk” is a lot more than just an odor. I use it as a description of all the hellish things that hang on because of incarceration.   I’m reviewing reports of homelessness, depression, suicide and attempted suicide, as well as addiction . These men and women couldn’t wait to get out, and were anxious to start a new life. Sadly, showers and baths were not enough to completely shake the “prison funk.”   Here are some of the things that I see imprisonment negatively affecting:             Relationships (so many

Happy Father's Day?

I have received all of my Father’s Day gifts already. I need no more.   I have four beautiful adult kids, all healthy and well, who love each other. Each is happily married to a beautiful and devoted spouse. I have nine beautiful grandkids. There is harmony and laughter and love in our family.   I am blessed beyond measure.   Yet, my observance of Father’s Day is clouded, and it all goes back to this statement by my favorite theologian, Frederick Buechner:   Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me.   The situation is this: I work 7 days a week with residents of the Michigan Prison System. And daily, this is what I see:   Fathers whose wives have abandoned them, and who have no idea where their kids are. Fathers whose kids despise them because of their plight, and who refuse to visit them. Fathers who have never seen their kids. Grandfa

Wrong prisoner or wrong dog. Which would raise the bigger fuss?

S omeone on Facebook raised an interesting point the other day. It was in the comment section below an article telling of an execution somewhere in the United States. The key point in the story was that, until the moment he died, the man claimed his innocence.   The writer posed a “what if?” She said, “What if it was discovered that the wrong dog had been euthanized?” Her speculation was that public reaction to the loss of an innocent pet would be far more dramatic than if a state put to death an innocent person.   Matt has often theorized that fund-raising would be much more successful for us if we were trying to save puppies and kittens, rather than showing kindness to incarcerated human beings.   Whether or not you favor capital punishment, the problem of killing the wrong person is very troubling and very real. In a report earlier this year, the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) said its examination of every death sentence handed down since 1973 – more than 9,600 in all

GRATITUDE from behind bars!

Michigan prisoners are showing appreciation for our services in a most amazing and gracious manner.   It’s no secret that I struggle when someone asks how HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS measures success. I have appreciated Fr. Greg Boyle’s thoughts on the subject, when asked about his work with gang members. “Jesus was always too busy being faithful to worry about success. I'm not opposed to success; I just think we should accept it only if it is a by-product of our fidelity. If our primary concern is results, we will choose to work only with those who give us good ones.” But, it’s a fair question. One very nice person said she had difficulty donating to our cause because another charity she supports can tell her exactly how many hungry children they are feeding. We can’t provide numbers like that. We can tell her how many prisoners we are working with, but that has nothing to do with success. A grant writer consultant insists that success data is important. Yet, this is why it’s

Proudly treating transgender prisoners as fellow humans!

As we enter Pride Month, I’d like to focus on the T in the popular term LBGTQ.  Some of my friends, especially those who share my Christian beliefs, really don’t like to talk about these things. If we don’t talk about them we don’t have to think about them, and if we don’t think about them we don’t have to deal with the complexity of these issues.  When contacted for advice regarding a transgender person in one of our prisons, a Christian counselor bluntly stated to us: "Lots of luck with that one!" First, a simple description of the word transgender. It’s an adjective, denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex.  In Pride Month, I’m very proud to state that HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS is working with at least 40 transgender Michigan prisoners! Consider, for a moment, just how difficult it must be for a transgender person to just survive in that environment!   They face specific and unique problems

1,000 people in Michigan prisons are innocent! Do you care?

Baptist Preacher Jeff Gravins tells the story about a church searching for a new minister. A likely candidate was invited to speak on a Sunday morning. The congregation loved his sermon, and called him to become their new pastor.   Great sermon the first week. The second week, the very same sermon. The third week, the same again. The fourth week, samo samo.   That prompted a meeting by the church board. Said the church’s leading elder: “We are a bit concerned that you keep preaching the same sermon every Sunday. Our question is: ‘Do you have another sermon?’ The preacher took off his glasses, folded his arms and responded, ‘I do have another sermon. But this church hasn’t obeyed the first one yet.’”   I’m starting to feel that way about wrongful convictions.   20 years ago I founded this organization, while trying to free my wrongly convicted brother Maurice Carter. Ever since, I’ve been hammering on the topic.   Last week, former Cooley Innocence Project Director and HFP Dir