Showing posts from October, 2022

Do NOT throw away the key!

I love visiting with lifers!   These are the persons a former director of the MDOC shamefully called “the worst of the worst!”   How often have you heard the phrase, “Lock him up and throw away the key?” Those of us who are tough on crime and hate lawlessness love to say things like that. Or even worse: “Give him the electric chair. I’ll be the first to throw the switch!”   All that stuff is on my mind this week because Matt and I spent a couple hours in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Monday chatting with lifers at the Chippewa Correctional Facility, invited there by the National Lifers Association.   I guess the name needs a bit of explanation first.   The NLA was founded some 40 years ago by five men at the State Prison of Southern Michigan in Jackson. It’s a pioneer in the movement for prison reform driven by people who are themselves behind bars. There’s a chapter in every Michigan prison. And, despite the name, it’s primarily a Michigan organization.   The NLA’s primary mi

Hard topic, soft heart

  Having A Soft Heart In A Cruel World Is Courage, Not Weakness Quote Notebook   I swear it’s true: Working with prisoners softens hearts!   I first noticed this more than 20 years ago when I founded this organization. At that time, our name was INNOCENT and we worked primarily with the wrongly convicted. Keep in mind that, in a prior life, I had been a broadcast journalist. As a local news reporter, I witnessed opposing lawyers in the courtroom almost draw blood!   In the early days of INNOCENT we took membership in the national Innocence Network, made up of Innocence Projects all around the country. I was blown away by the camaraderie of these lawyers. In seminars, as well as in private lunches, these attorneys would hear the plight of others trying to help a prisoner and would share experiences. There was a constant spirit of kindness and helpfulness that I had never seen in the legal community.   In my role as the founder of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS, one of my least favorit

I met her. Now it’s your turn!

One would have thought we were old friends. Susan Burton walked into the room, gave me a hug, and we sat down and started talking like we had known each other for years! Actually, we were meeting each other for the first time.   Susan Burton co-authored an amazing book titled Becoming Ms. Burton, From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women. She’s in town to deliver a public address in the auditorium of Grand Haven’s Lakeshore Middle School tomorrow or today, depending on when you're reading this. Thursday, the 13th.   Matt and I had the opportunity to record a podcast with Susan. And, the HFP team had an opportunity to socialize with her over an informal dinner. Now it's your turn, and I hope you take advantage of this opportunity. It’s estimated that 85% of locked-up women were, at some time, physically or mentally abused…or both. Here in Michigan, as in every other state, disproportionately these women are Black and poor. Says Susan: “I was born

Susan Burton's story: Important for all of us!

Maurice Carter was a hero to many when he walked out of prison in 2004. He had served 29 years for a crime he did not commit. At the conclusion of a ten-year battle with the State of Michigan, he finally obtained a compassionate release from the Governor because he was dying. He may have been a hero in our circles, and he’s still my hero today. But, he was no hero in the community when it came to reentry issues. He couldn’t find a play to stay. Here’s what he had going against him: He was Black, he had a prison record, and he was suffering from Hepatitis C.   We were finally fortunate enough to find one kind couple, who owned and operated a care facility, who had a heart and took him in.   Some 90% of the prisoners in Michigan will get out someday, but the going won’t be easy. Besides that, these people get little help with personal issues upon reentry. My friend Ronnie got caught up in his old ways upon his release, eventually got picked up again, and took his own life in a county