Showing posts from May, 2024

Remembering our veterans behind bars: Still heroes!

The Government calls them “justice-involved veterans.” They’re former service members now serving time under the supervision of the criminal justice system.   On this Memorial Day, I’d like to pay tribute not only to incarcerated veterans in the State of Michigan, but also to the Michigan Department of Corrections for its treatment and care of veterans.   How many are in prison, and what brought them there?   Well, there are more than 100,000 military veterans locked up   in prisons throughout the United States…some 2,000 of them right here in Michigan. More than 98% are men.   According to the VA, more than half of “justice-involved veterans” have either mental health problems or substance-abuse disorders, most notably alcohol or cocaine addiction. In addition, a large percentage are also homeless or at-risk for homelessness, and many others face such challenges as finding work and reintegrating into society. Sadly, these vets also may be at higher risk for suicide.   What c

Prisoners: Not visited by God dropping down from a cloud!

Sometimes the members of our team just need an attaboy! Sometimes prisoners grumble, sometimes we fail in our attempts to help, sometimes we’re there with too little too late, sometimes we cannot find the right words. It’s not all fun and games in the HFP office.   Five years ago, a wonderful Roman Catholic nun, internationally known for her fight against the death penalty and author of Dead Man Walking, Sister Helen Prejean, came to Grand Haven as our guest speaker for the HFP author/lecture series. I had occasion to review a video of her comments this week, and it renews my excitement about the unique mission of HFP!   She insisted, in her lecture, that we’re doing “the God work in the world, the Christ work.” Added Sister Prejean: “Prisoners aren’t visited by God descended in some cloud and going to prison. It’s folks like us!”   Why do we do what we do?   “It’s always around compassion. It’s always around justice. It’s always to those who have no voice and nobody on their s

Taking on Goliath!

I relived the story of David and Goliath today!   I use a Bible reading plan that includes readings from the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament.   While it’s very popular, as followers of Jesus, to focus a lot of attention on the New Testament, I have a real love for many of the Old Testament stories. And today, I especially identified with David, the young shepherd boy, with 5 smooth stones in his pocket.   For those not familiar with the story, as told in First Samuel, a foreign nation had a giant of a champion named Goliath. He would taunt the army of the Israelites, challenging them to send someone to fight him. If he won, the Israelites would have to become slaves of his country…or, vice versa. Well, the guy was so huge and so threatening that no one dared give it a try.   When young David was bringing food to his brothers serving in the army, he heard the rant of  this big dude, and stated that he would take on Goliath. David was a shepherd, accustomed to defendi

Deathbed and prisoner conversions---are they real?

I was leafing through our denomination’s periodical, The Banner, this week when I happened upon a provocative little piece written by a campus pastor. Michael Wagenman, who serves at Western University in London, Ontario, was specifically dealing with the topic of deathbed conversions. His question: Does God always accept deathbed conversions?   That prompted my thought processes. I see some real similarities between questions about deathbed conversions and claims of conversion and statements of belief by the incarcerated.   I cringe when I hear and see TV trial coverage of local area defendants, especially when the camera focuses on family members and friends of victims , when they are given the opportunity to address the alleged perpetrator. With tearful voices they express rhetoric of revenge and hatred. They assure the accused criminal that he or she will rot in hell. One representative of a prominent family said, a while back, that he would never be able to forgive the person

What is it about “It’s not working” that we don’t understand?

I was chatting with one of our board members on camera, working on a publicity video for HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS. Marla Mitchell-Cichon, recently retired director of the Cooley-WMU Innocence Project, made this startling statement: “We’re going to have to get rid of the prison system (as we know it)! It doesn’t work! It never worked!"   She pointed out that the goal of incarceration is to reform, so that those who are released will become productive members of society. She insisted that this is NOT what the prison system is doing!   On May 3, the Kalamazoo County Bar Association presented its Liberty Bell Award to SaConna Johnson in its annual Law Day event. Ms. Johnson is the Head Client Advocate at Kalamazoo Defender, a non-profit public defender office. This public defender office provides legal representation within the court system, and through its care hub hooks up clients with social services.   In her acceptance speech, she bluntly informed some 50 local attorneys incl