Showing posts from February, 2022

Prisoners: Not people, just commodities locked in a warehouse!

  Instead of brutality, prisons could be a place to instill dignity and a sense of worth   That headline says it all. It’s the caption on a recent piece written by a prominent attorney for The Star-Ledger, of Newark, New Jersey.   Says Charles McKenna : “Our prison system is designed to demean, degrade and dehumanize. Prisons treat inmates as commodities in a warehouse and not people.”   Comments made by HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS clients in recent weeks prompt me to beat on this old drum one more time. Currently, Michigan’s corrections budget is about $2 billion a year. We could be doing so much better!   My hero, Bryan Stevenson of Equal Justice Initiative, tells it like it is: “Incarcerated people are beaten, stabbed, raped, and killed in facilities run by corrupt officials who abuse their power with impunity. People who need medical care, help managing their disabilities, mental health and addiction treatment, and suicide prevention are denied care, ignored, punished, and plac

When old men and gang bangers wind up in the same room

It sounds so innocent! What could go wrong when you double-bunk an old guy and a younger prisoner?   A whole lot! That’s what!   James, who speaks from experience, is on a mission to change all of that. He’s 71, and he’s hoping that his story will prompt some action by the Michigan Department of Corrections as well as the state legislature.   James explains that when a young guy gets paired up with an old dude, there’s often intimidation. More often than not, he claims, the younger inmates see these elderly men as easy marks, unable to defend themselves or protect their personal property.   James has been behind bars for 49 years. Here's what he has to say.   “I have been assaulted and victimized several times by younger prisoners. James said that one time his bunkie admitted taking his personal property and assaulting him when he tried to take it back, but he was issued a major misconduct for fighting, because the guard didn’t see who threw the first punch. In addition,

Sure I'll forgive, if the offense wasn't too serious!

A news story in our area these days is proving one thing: When considering forgiveness, it’s difficult to get past the seriousness of the offense.   Here’s the situation. The Supreme Court has ruled that we may not sentence juveniles to life in prison without parole anymore. Because the ruling was retroactive, some men and women serving life terms for crimes they committed as teenagers have a chance at freedom, IF the judge agrees to a lenient sentence the second time around. And that’s what is happening in Grand Rapids. A juvenile lifer will be getting a new sentence.   And here’s where it gets sticky. The 1997 crime we’re talking about was a terrible one involving a baby. Even many progressive thinkers have a problem with freeing a person for something that heinous.   To his credit, Kent County Circuit Judge Paul Denefeld has obviously done his homework. He discovered that the teen who committed the crime had had a terrible childhood. And, his investigation revealed that the ma

Valentine's Day wishes to a special group!

On this Valentine’s day, instead of the traditional “Roses are red, violets are blue,” message, try this one on for size:   I may not get to see you as often as I like, I may not get to hold you in my arms all the night. But deep in my heart, I truly know You’re the one that I love, and I can’t let go.   Valentine’s Day is much like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day when it comes to happiness vs. pain. These special days were created to show kindness, love and respect to special people in our lives. But, on Mother’s Day, for example, there’s pain for that woman who would love to be a mother but can’t. On Father’s Day, for example, there’s pain in the home where a father was tragically killed in a recent accident.   Yes, there’s pain on this Valentine’s Day for those who have lost a spouse, for those whose marriage didn’t survive, and for those who never found the right partner. But, I submit that no human emotions are as complex as those experienced today by those whose partner

We’re not allowed to lie, but police have a green light!

  Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor   Back when I was a kid we had to memorize the King James version of the Ten Commandments. Commandment #9, in plain English, means that you darn well better not lie.   Yet, there’s something many people are not aware of. The Ten Commandments do not apply to your friendly police officer. Police are legally allowed to lie to you during an interrogation, and it is not uncommon for them to do so. I’ve never understood the fairness of this concept.   You and I may not lie, and not just because it’s morally wrong. It is illegal to lie to police, for example, about your identity during a traffic stop or while being placed under arrest. Filing a false police report is also a crime. The most serious offense, of course, is perjury...that can be a felony.   And yet, according to the Innocence Project---   1.     It is almost always legal for police to lie during interrogations. 2.     False confessions are a leading cause of wro

YOU are called to be a deacon!`

I was invited to put my name in the hopper as a candidate for deacon in the first church we attended. I was a bit miffed. The reason for that unreasonable emotion was that a very good friend, also my age, was asked if he would be a candidate for elder. That was the important position in the church... that’s where they should have wanted my name. How shamefully misguided were my thoughts.   Matt and I are starting a new series of podcasts about HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS. In our first session, Matt pointed out that the HFP team is made up of “deacons.” We get that profound concept from no less than theologian Dr. John Rottman, Calvin Seminary Professor who serves on the HFP Board of Directors.   To get an idea of a deacon’s assignment, I’d like to quote from the form for the ordination of deacons, as worded by the Christian Reformed Church of North America. Deacons, we are told, are charged with leading and equipping members of the church like “awakening compassion, demonstrating mercy

Black History Month story: How Black people led to the formation of HFP!

Black History Month and Humanity for Prisoners. Believe it or not, there’s a direct link.   As an octogenarian, I’m allowed to do some reflecting. I’d like to give you a brief overview of how God used Black people in the life of this white Dutch boy, in a way that eventually resulted in an amazing program of assistance to Michigan prisoners.   It began nearly 70 years ago when, still in my teens, I began a radio broadcasting career. The Muskegon radio station that hired me carried a couple of live broadcasts on Sunday morning featuring Black musicians. Beautiful prayers offered by Sister Mattie Davis and incredible music performed by the Spiritualaires led to some lasting friendships and numerous beautiful experiences for this young lad.   Fast forward to a couple decades later, when I owned my own radio station in Grand Haven. The booking of a guest speaker, an itinerant Black preacher by the name of Cy Young, for my daily talk show made an incredible impact. He was a follower o