Showing posts from November, 2021

RIP, Jerry Horne! We'll meet again!

I suspect that Jerry Horne, Maurice Carter and Jesus are yucking it up, today. Probably chuckling over the Lord’s stories about the rich and the poor, and the complicated path to heaven.   Jerry joined the party yesterday.   Newlyweds Jerry and Dee Horne came to Holland, Michigan, in the 1960s. He and I worked together at Radio Station WJBL. It soon became clear, however, that this couple were headed for bigger things. Their combined prowess led them down an entrepreneurial path that took them into different and highly successful circles. We didn’t see each other again for decades.   There was little likelihood that our paths would ever cross again. Our income brackets were at opposite extremes, as were our politics, and even some of our religious views. But an indigent black man from Gary, Indiana, changed all of that.   Jerry read about my efforts to help a wrongly convicted prisoner named Maurice Carter. The story was making headlines in the Grand Rapids Press on a rather co

A "sticky note" to the late Rita Miller!

  Thanksgiving Day, November, 1954 (Age 18, at the “sunrise” of my life)  As the newest announcer on the staff, I would be the only person on duty at WMUS on Thanksgiving Day. With only a daytime license, the Muskegon radio station would sign on at 8:15 AM and sign off at 5:15 PM. My loving mom would prepare a Thanksgiving dinner for me. My dad would deliver it.  I flicked on the lights at the Giles Road studios, and discovered that the tiny office was speckled with yellow sticky notes. Before locking up on Wednesday, Rita Miller, our creative and innovative commercial writer, had and posted stickers everywhere!  Thank you for telephones! Thank you for typewriters! Thank you for desks! Thank you for chairs!  It was fun, but I had work to do.  Little did I realize that I was at the beginning of an exciting 29-year radio career. That I would later embark on a fulfilling 21-year career selling church organs. And that, at age 65 when many people retire, I would respond to the calli

Giving thanks behind bars?

In preparing an annual Thanksgiving prayer for our family dinner, I like to fall back on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s material. This year, as I read this simple verse, I think of persons living behind bars.     “For flowers that bloom about our feet;   For tender grass, so fresh, so sweet;   For song of bird, and hum of bee; For all things fair we hear or see,   Father in heaven, we thank Thee!”   The deal is, it would be pretty difficult to recite this little prayer while living in a cage, where you can’t smell flowers, can’t feel damp grass, and can’t hear the chirping of birds and the humming of bees. All stuff that we just take for granted.   And yet, here in our office we receive words of thanks every day! With 50-100 messages arriving daily from behind bars, our team is wrapped in warm and fuzzy comments like these.   “Thanks again for all your help. Make sure you give a special thanks to all the volunteers at HFP for me.”   “Thank you for data provided by your complex

Are we winning the war against racism? I don't think so!

I can’t even begin to discuss the obvious racial issues in the Rittenhouse story with a good friend. She insists that I’m biased because I refuse to watch Fox News, and that racism is not a systemic problem in U.S. law enforcement and justice circles.   She is correct in that I struggle with objectivity on the issue of race, because my colleagues and I deal with it every day. As a legitimate and experienced broadcast journalist and a news junkie, I refuse to listen to any single news organization, and I have broad experience in pursuing facts.   I’m not sure what planet my friend lives on, but here are some quotes, all gathered from legitimate resources, today .   - A Freep investigation found that Black men are nearly six times more likely to be charged with resisting under state law than white men. Detroit Free Press   -Federal prosecutors in New Jersey last week indicted 3 police officers seen on video abusing a Black teenager who was handcuffed and prone. The incident took

Are you ready to accept any blame in the Rittenhouse verdict?

People aren’t going to like my opinion. But here it is: It’s the Prosecutor’s fault!   People are shouting from all sides, following announcement of the verdict that teenager Kyle Rittenhouse has been found not guilty of all charges in a shameful Kenosha, Wisconsin, incident. This kid came into town with an assault rifle last August. He didn’t live there, but apparently felt he was needed because a demonstration was scheduled...somebody had to help keep order. He wound up shooting three protestors, killing two of them. Self-defense, he claimed.   So now you have 2 nd Amendment supporters, self-defense advocates and gun rights people defending the decision of the jury. Loving the decision. Meanwhile, many of us are shaking our heads in alarm and disgust.   But let me return to my first line.   As a young radio broadcaster, partly because of my own enthusiasm and gusto, I got thrust into the role of management at an exceptionally early age. I became the youngest News Director in

Mentally ill moms and dads behind bars need you!

Old Arnie was mentally challenged, and never should have received a prison sentence. Once behind bars, he got into even more trouble. He was confused and didn’t follow directions. It was a hot summer when he got thrown into “the hole” for disobeying orders, and it was like getting locked up in a sauna. Then, the laughing guards pulled one more trick. They turned off the cold water, so all he had was hot tap water.   That happened years ago, and marked my first experience with mistreatment of the mentally ill in a state prison.   I raised hell. We’ve been complaining ever since.   In 2014, after obtaining smuggled affidavits from prisoner observers in Huron Valley, we persuaded the US Department of Justice to investigate mistreatment of mentally ill women. Even that didn’t seem to bring about much change.   In recent days, we received this shameful report from an inmate at Macomb CF:   " When a prisoner is under observation for self-harm they are being treated like animal

Doug Tjapkes: A “not all that innocent” bystander

I don’t spend a lot of time reflecting. Don’t have much time for it. Even at this age, there’s a lot to do, a lot to be thinking about.   But, November 11, 2021, is significant for me, in that I’ve never been 85 before. My parents never reached that age, either. This reflection business all started while reading a little devotional by my favorite theologian, Frederick Buechner.   Buechner was talking about the challenges St. Paul faced in trying to get a Christian church up and running. He was recruiting anybody and everybody he could. “Where was it all going to get all of them, any of them, in the end? When you came right down to it, what was God up to, for God’s sweet sake, sending them all out – prophets, apostles, evangelists, teachers, the whole tattered bunch – to beat their gums and work themselves into an early grave?”   But it was this little passage that really grabbed me.   “God was making a body for Christ, Paul said. Christ didn’t have a regular body anymore,

Two days later, a different story! Can Shipman's style prevail?

I mouthed a silent “Thank you!” when I heard the news that Brian Shipman had been appointed chairman of the Michigan Parole Board last year. It was an excellent decision by Director Heidi Washington.   My first brush with the Michigan Parole Board came in 2004, when Maurice Carter was being considered for a compassionate release. At that time, the PB was run by a former prosecutor who still talked and acted like one. And, in his public hearing, Maurice was grilled by an Assistant Attorney General who acted like this was another trial.   As providence would have it, I later became a prisoner advocate and had many experiences with the Parole Board...and 9 out of 10 were just as bad or worse!   Years later, while representing a prisoner being considered for parole, I had the opportunity to interact with a new member of the board, Brian Shipman. What a difference! What a breath of fresh air! This man treated a prisoner like a human being!   Later, as son Matt started taking on most

Like father, like son

Readers will remember that I have been railing about Michigan Parole Board public hearings for years. Yesterday, son Matt’s pen erupted.   It doesn’t have to be this way By Matt Tjapkes, HFP CEO, 11/2/21   Even the good parole hearings are bad.   In 10 years, I've sat through a bunch. While I always walk out with hope for our clients, I also walk out with a bad feeling in my gut. Today as I sat and watched, a parole board member and a member of the Attorney General's office badgered HFP client Mr. D about how he left his kids behind. He had openly said the same thing several times, saying how remorseful he was, but they just had to keep talking over each other, beating him up about it until he finally broke down in tears. Once he broke down, they seemed satisfied.   A student who had helped the client called me afterward. At that point, she, too, was in tears. She, like I, was not satisfied with the hearing.   It doesn't have to be like this.   For an hour and f