Showing posts from June, 2022

Funny the thoughts that go through your mind when you take a step back!

There are times when it’s good to just take a day off.   At age 85, I haven’t had much of a break lately. My wife of 65 years died a couple months ago. Things around the house still have to get done. Post-funeral tasks are unpleasant but necessary. My writing assignments for HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS cannot wait. I love to be a participating musician in our church’s worship services every Sunday. It was time for a deep breath.   So, I took a break.   While enjoying some spectacular views in northern Michigan I got to thinking about an HFP staff meeting a week ago.   It all began when a Michigan prisoner sent a gift of $50. I had just assumed the money was to help fund the work of HFP. Wrong! This inmate was so grateful for the help we had given him that he wanted to buy lunch for the entire HFP staff! 6 people!   Think about it. I have no idea if the man even has a job in prison. But if he does, he doesn’t earn that kind of money! The work, the words, the assistance, the love, t

On suicide, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts behind bars

The suicide rate among prisoners is four times as high as among the general population : Wikipedia.   With a hundred calls coming in per day at the HFP office, you can well imagine that some of these prisoners are discussing suicide. I’m going to let them do the writing.   Inmate #1, a resident at Women’s Huron Valley who struggles with suicidal thoughts, suffered a panic attack after being told she had to move one more time.   When I was cuffed and taken to the unit for suicidal thoughts or actions the officer there was in rare form. "So you want to hang from the rafters so you don't have to move? Well, I got news for your ass! You’re still moving when you leave here, ain't nothing wrong with you. You kill me playing games cuz you don't want to move." She was screaming this and many more of her own diagnoses of my mental health. So I sat in a room, locked in with nothing and no way to get my medication for my mental health.   Inmate #2 writes from Carson

Juneteenth! I was in the dark!

I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never written a column about Juneteenth. I’m ashamed to admit that, until 40 years ago, I had never even heard the word “Juneteenth.” I had no idea what it was, or what it meant.   I was attending a meeting in Grand Rapids on June 19, sometime in the late 1980s, with my good friend Rev. Cy Young, Black preacher and MLK devotee. After the meeting, he invited me to join him at a nearby park, where African Americans were observing Juneteenth.   I had to ask what the heck he was talking about. You probably already know this. But, here's  a simple explanation from CNN...and this is what Cy Young had to explain to me:   Juneteenth -- also known as Juneteenth Independence Day, Freedom Day and Emancipation Day -- commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. A blend of the words June and nineteenth, it marks June 19, 1865: the day that Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and issued General Order No. 3, proclaiming that

O death, where is thy sting? In prison!

Death. It’s a dark subject, and it’s been on my mind too much these days!   Within a matter of weeks, I lost my wife of nearly 65 years, a fellow member of HIS MEN whose friendship dates back to 1958, my old fishing buddy with whom we had vacationed for decades, and a long-time neighbor whose kids grew up, played with and camped with our offspring. That’s enough for now, thank you.   Amidst the sorrow and grief, however, there were positives. The lengthy lives of Marcia, Hermie, Arnie and Ellie gently came to an end with family and friends on hand. All were people of faith who realized that this was not the end. Arrangements were properly handled by capable and caring professionals. Loving support came to their families from all directions. Appropriate memorial services were conducted.   Sadly, that’s not the way it is in prison.   This message came today: “Mr. P fell in the dayroom at about 7:00 last night and died. Staff had covered his body with some type of black tarp, and

Do we like the prosecutor or the defense attorney? Depends on the case!

  “ an attorney I’m neither a judge nor a member of the jury. My job is not to decide or even to be seriously concerned with whether the defendant is guilty. My job is only to advocate on behalf of my client and insist that she is afforded all of the rights she is entitled to under the law. ”   Sam Johnstone, fictional attorney in James Chandler’s legal thriller, Misjudged.   Ever since I met Maurice Carter in the mid-1990s, I’ve been a strong supporter of criminal defense attorneys and public defenders.   I’m thinking about this today, as the developing story of a Grand Rapids police officer charged with second-degree murder continues to make the headlines. In that case, Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker rightfully deserves credit for making that controversial decision. We share the opinion that prosecutors tend to go easy on cops.   But there’s another strong player in this story, and he’s getting much fewer accolades. It’s the defense attorney for officer Christopher Sc

National Higher Education Day came and went. Did you notice?

Monday, June 6, was National Higher Education Day. Why such a day? “ It was designed to educate and inspire future graduates .” Boring. And so, more often than not, the day goes unnoticed.   Well, it’s not going unnoticed here!   On Monday, National Higher Education Day, more than 60 prisoners graduated from Jackson Community College at G. Robert Cotton and Cooper Street Correctional Facilities here in Michigan! By this time next week, similar numbers of prisoners will have graduated, in similar ceremonies ,at Parnall CF in Jackson, Lakeland CF in Coldwater, Gus Harrison CF in Adrian, and Women’s Huron Valley CF in Ypsilanti! All from Jackson CC!   Supporters of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS know that we recently helped spread the word about some prison graduates at the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia last month. And for good reason. 76 students from the 2020, 2021 and 2022 classes, after a COVID delay, finally got the recognition they had worked for in a combined cere

Thanks for friends; thanks to friends. All behind bars!

  “Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.” – Muhammad Ali  It should come as no surprise when I tell you that I have many friends behind bars. However, the depth of that friendship, in many cases, surprises even me. A perfect example of that is the in-prison response to the message that Matt had lost his mom, I had lost my wife, Marcia.  As soon as the word filtered into the prison system, messages of condolence started arriving.  Keep in mind that my friendship with these men and women is a long-distance one. Granted, I have visited with some, chatted by phone with some, and met some while on speaking engagements in prisons. But, it’s not an intimate type of relationship where we spend time over a cup of coffee or a beer, sharing our innermost thoughts. In fact, very few prisoners knew Marcia. Yet, it seemed as though, when I was