Showing posts from August, 2022

Free prison telephone calls?

Yes, we're talking about free telephone calls. Take a look at this! Incarcerated persons in Michigan are learning that they have a valuable friend in the Michigan legislature. State Representative Tenisha Yancey, a Democrat from Harper Woods, is in her third full term serving Michigan’s 1sts House District. I knew nothing about Rep. Yancey until I recently read about a bill she has introduced. She wants free telephone calls for all persons behind bars!    House Bill #6363 would fully eliminate the fees and charges friends and families of incarcerated people pay to speak with their loved ones inside state prisons and county jails. If approved, this bill has the potential of saving Michigan families tens of millions of dollars every year!   While telephone rates for state prison calls aren’t the worst in the nation (we’re number 12, charging $2.40 for a 15-minute call!), the same cannot be said about county jail phone service. According to Save and Just Michigan, Michigan familie

Yep, Here in Pure Michigan, we've got prison problems! Especially staff!

Although prisoners do not have full constitutional rights, they are protected by the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. This protection also requires that prisoners be afforded a minimum standard of living. Legal Information Instititute   And I contend, Ladies and Gentlemen, that a “minimum standard of living” just ain’t happening! Not in our Michigan prisons. A key reason: critical staff shortage!   Consider this data, compiled by Kay Perry of MI-CURE and Ted Roelofs, of Bridge Michigan.   -Approximately 900 staff shortages in the MDOC (1 in 6 positions vacant!) -Corrections Officers are working 80-hours/week with mandatory overtime   In addition to the impact on the daily lives of the more than 30,000 men and women who occupy our prisons, just consider the damage among the staff when you expect people to work 16-hour shifts.   -41% meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder -25% meet the criteria for alcohol abuse -An

Witnessing by license plate?

I hardly knew Jack Bloem. I think we had met in person only once. I knew that he had married my cousin Dora, whom I had not seen since 1946. I know his son Russ, who serves as chairman of our Board of Directors.   Jack died last week. He was 92.   It would be easy, and even reasonable, to explain why I had so much respect for Jack Bloem after reading his credentials and accomplishments. But, those were not the deciding factors. The credit goes to a license plate. It’s a vanity plate that was on his car, and it simply says QNA 1.   Those of you who are familiar with Reformed theology will quickly pick up on this. The plate message was referring to the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism. My dear friend, the late Rev. Cy Young, a Black preacher from Grand Rapids, thought Q & A 1 was one of the most beautiful documents he had ever read. After spotting it in a hymnbook of our church he memorized it, and often used it in his oral presentations.   Here are the w

What about kids already born? Do they have rights?

Children should be seen and not heard. WRONG! I’m taking a stand for youngsters today.   I know, arguments are raging these days about when a fetus becomes a person. I’m not talking about unborn children. I’m talking about kids. Youngsters already born, alive, and deserving of rights. They are not chattel. They are human beings, and they do   have rights.   In a recent MLive newspaper feature, writer Mathew Miller exposes the disgusting fact that child marriage is still legal in Michigan! What the?   The article goes on to cite facts about young teens getting married (almost all of them end in divorce). According to the MLive piece, a union only has to be approved by the parents and a judge. Miller tells of one situation in which a 14-year-old girl was married! Sadly, our state legislature has considered bill after bill to correct this situation, but all efforts to change the state law have failed. Pure Michigan.   So, then I start thinking about other ways that we’

Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. Ghandi

Forgiveness. The lack of it, and the power of it. I saw it all in one hour of TV news this week. In the first half-hour of local news, there was a report that a juvenile lifer had been re-sentenced, and would be released. It was the story of a local area woman who had committed a terrible crime at the age of 16. Now, 30 years later, thanks to a Supreme Court Ruling, she’s hoping to get a fresh start. She’ll get out in September.   The sad part of the story was the lack of forgiveness by the family of the victim. As this 48-year-old woman tearfully tried to tell her story of redemption in the court and offer her condolences to the family, they turned their backs to her and plugged their ears!   I was taken aback by that behavior. I’m a firm believer in restorative justice, and members of our team do our best to try to help juvenile lifers who may have a crack at a new life. This broke my heart.   Then came the next half-hour---national news. And a heartwarming story.   There w

Family: where life begins and love never ends. Anon

Sam was 7 years of age when he was removed from his home. When his father was no longer in the picture, his mother couldn’t handle all the kids alone. He was placed in foster care. That was a long time ago.   Many, many years later, sitting in a Michigan prison cell, Sam did a lot of thinking about his childhood, and wondered if his mother was still alive. How he’d love to talk with her! He heard rumors that an organization called HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS helps in situations like this. He called our office.   I’m cutting the story very short to tell you that Sam’s mom contacted the HFP office the other day. She was weeping. She and her son have reconnected!   We call it “People Search.” It’s one of the popular services of HFP, and it got off to a rocky start. To say that the Michigan Department of Corrections didn’t like the people search idea would be an understatement. Their concerns were valid. Some people don’t turn off the criminal switch when they become incarcerated. Yet, 90