Facing the Parole Board
February 23, 2017
We thought the Michigan Parole Board might be softening its stance on insisting that inmates show remorse for a crime, even when they didn’t actually commit the offense. But then we received this message from a distraught prisoner this week:
"HI DOUG!!! JUST A NOTE TO LET YOU KNOW THAT I WENT TO THE PAROLE BOARD TODAY AND I TOLD HIM JUST AS YOU SAID. I TOLD HIM THAT I FELT SORRY FOR THE VICTIM AND HER FAMILY AND FRIENDS BUT, I COULDN'T HAVE REMORSE FOR SOMETHING I DIDN'T DO. IT WAS ONE OF THE HARDEST THINGS I HAVE EVER DONE, MY FRIEND, FOR HE BASICALLY TOLD ME HE WANTED TO PAROLE ME IF ONLY I WOULD SHOW REMORSE. I COULDN'T DO IT FOR MY GOD DOES NOT LIKE LIARS AND IT WOULD BE A TOTAL LIE IF I SAID THAT I DID THIS CRIME. I JUST WANTED TO UPDATE YOU ON WHAT I SAID. YOU TAKE CARE MY FRIEND, AND GOD BLESS YOU AND YOU FAMILY, AND THANK YOU FOR ALL THAT YOU DO FOR THOSE OF US WHO HAVE NO VOICE. TRULY, STEVE."
More on overcrowding at Huron Valley
February 21, 2017
For over a year, HFP has been receiving complaints about the overcrowding at the women's prison in Michigan. Here's the latest example:
"I was only given 5 minutes to eat dinner again last night and even when you report it, it may go a day or two without conflict, then they are back to pushing us out again. Too many people to feed in an hour. Impossible, yet when we try to fight it we are beat down with tickets."
Out of mind, but not out of sight
February 16, 2017
Mr. W. is 81 years of age, and HFP is trying to assist him in getting his sentence commuted for medical reasons. A few days ago this message in the mail:
"I had cataract surgery on my right eye on December 20. I was sent back for follow-up on the 21st. Things were looking good, but the transportation officers forgot me...left me in the hospital until 8:15 that night, in the cold bull pen all by myself. I happened to see an officer pass by, and stopped him. I asked him to check the Transportation Department to see why they had left me. I arrived back at my facility at 10 PM."
True Story – Only the names have been changed!
February 15, 2017
Paul Fredricks was waiting for a surgical procedure---a biopsy of the prostate. Here’s his story:
"The MDOC staff at the hospital prepped me wrong. They had 2 Fredricks who were prisoners scheduled that day and they gave me David Fredrick’s file, med tag and prepped me for HIS procedure. I looked at the transport officer and told him my birthday was NOT 6-11-66 and my first name was NOT David, he ignored me. After 20 minutes the nurse came over and said are we ready David and I told her I'M NOT DAVID, I AM PAUL and that's when all hell broke loose and they found out the officers at the intake desk mixed up my and his file. Glad they didn’t put me under and remove my colon and install a colostomy bag like he was scheduled to have done!"
Is some medical care, or lack of it, in Michigan prisons cruel and unusual punishment? Doug thinks so. See the HFP blog: http://humanityforprisoners.blogspot.com/
The heartbreak of loneliness
February 14, 2017
While many today share stories of love, prisoners like this are often left forgotten:
"I cannot file an application for commutation of sentence because I don’t have what is needed: no family, no friends or outside support, no children, no religious organizations or individuals who really give a s**t about me. I have not had a visit from anyone in 20 years. I have not used a telephone in 20 years. I was married in 1985, lost wife to cancer. Married again in 1991, lost wife to kidney failure…both times in prison, so I have no solid family or nothing in my life to even try to build on."
Chance for Life - Doing Good Things!
February 10, 2017
Message to HFP President Doug Tjapkes:
"I again wanted to thank you for participating in our Month of Peace Celebration. I did have the chance to read your blog that you wrote regarding our event. That was truly a great act of courage. Many people don't make public the positive things that incarcerated people do so to have you shine a light on us is very much appreciated. I will be looking forward to contacting your organization again and extending a invitation to you to come speak. I did want you to know that the Chance For Life Organization did a month-long drive and raised money for the Gayle M. Jacob Cancer Center here in Jackson. We were able to raise over $1,100.00 to help cancer patients. It was our way to give back to the community. I'm going to close now, just wanted to keep you updated on the good works that the Chance For Life Organization and the men here at Cotton Facility are doing. Thanks for your commitment to our struggle.
"Sincerely, Mr. C.B".
Thoughts from a battered woman
An inmate from Michigan's prison for women writes to HFP:
"Prison strips you of your dignity, erodes your self-esteem, embitters you, and destroys whatever good qualities you possess. The first qualities to go are compassion and empathy, because prison rules punish you for sharing, crying, comforting, or hugging another prisoner. You learn to be emotionally detached. For a battered woman it is the cruelest of all environments because prison is a hotbed of verbal, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, and you can’t escape it. There is no healing...only years more of suffering and pain, this time battered by the criminal justice system."
HFP Blog: HFP President Doug Tjapkes shares some personal thoughts about Black History Month - http://humanityforprisoners.blogspot.com/
Tests by God?
A prisoner writes HFP about his struggles:
"I personally feel like He is testing me lately. My patience every single day. And not even with important things...only with "prison things" if that makes sense. Things I will never have to deal with ever again in life when I leave here. I KNOW that’s what’s happening. I’m continuing to stay strong and combat it to the best of my ability given, my standpoint you know? I trust in Him."
Funny how the story changes
February 3, 2017
A prisoner struggling with health issues writes to HFP:
"They ran out of 14 gauge catheters and the guards told me they didn’t get a delivery so they were instructed to only give 2 to each person and we were told to make do with them. Then, when I was on the way out and I saw one of the head nurses next to the doctor who is taking care of me, I asked WTH was going on, why I was only being given 2 caths for an entire week and why I was told just wash them and re-use them when they say right on the package DO NOT RE-USE! The doctor looked puzzled and suddenly the guards and nurses story changed and they mysteriously found a nearby closet full of 16 gauge caths and asked if I would use those instead. Funny little quirks they tend to pull when they think they can get away with something."
When it rains, it pours!
January 26, 2017
A prisoner reports to HFP:
"Unit five's roof is leaking RIGHT ONTO a bunk in the 12 man. Happens to be a little girl from home who I know. It rained and was raining RIGHT ONTO HER...the officers said "we called control center to see what they could do." This was right after it had leaked all over her bed and they hadn't replaced her sheets and blankets the first time. So everybody in the 12 man gave her their coats to cover up with to try and avoid being leaked on."
WHV visitation problems
January 24, 2017
A prisoner's loved one writes HFP about visitation issues at Michigan's prison for women:
"I make the 3 hour drive to WHV Correctional Facility 3 to 4 times a month. There are some wonderful staff there to help you, and there are some horrible staff as well. There is one C.O. that seems to always be rude, aggressive, and takes joy in making you wait. I have had to wait in the waiting room for as long as 3 and a half hours just to go back and see my loved one. On that day I spent 9 and a half hours between driving and waiting to get in. That does not leave much time to see a prisoner!"
Humor Behind Bars
January 20, 2017
An inmate writes about his new job:
" I did go to the facility orientation yesterday afternoon, and they are going to waive/allow me to get a job in the unit, one with dignity and top of the ranks! I will be Colonel, Colonel Urinal, head of the toilet brigade and keeping the toilets cleaned!! Hey it's 84 cents a day and I was told I could get interviewed later for a factory job."
Another grateful inmate
January 19, 2017
A prisoner who earned parole writes to HFP:
"The journey has begun . I am at the re-entry program and I have already started the class, but my computer skills are not that great . I am learning though but it is a struggle , but I think I can manage. With the grace of the man upstairs I will succeed in this trial . I would again like to thank all of your staff and especially you Doug. Thank You, Your Friend Mr. J."
Marquette CF - No place for the handicapped!
January 18, 2017
A handicapped prisoner's plea to HFP:
"Since I have been in Marquette CF, the facility has not been able to appropriately or adequately accommodate my medical needs. I have an L-4,L-5 injury to my spinal cord. I have an AFO brace on one leg, and a canvass brace on the other ankle/foot, due to balance and strength issues. I also, have no control over my bladder, or bowels due to my injury which demands me to self catheterize and wear incontinence garments...Pull-Ups. There are no rails in the toilet stalls, or in the shower which makes it very difficult and damn near impossible for me to use these facilities. I have requested a shower chair or something that may assist, but nothing has been done. I have recently fallen in the shower, because of this. I was humiliated and embarrassed. I also, expressed the concern of being in the open-dorm setting. I have no privacy to change my under garments or self cath. This is a serious problem. I was told to us the bathroom stalls. However, there are no rails, so cleaning myself or changing is extremely difficult. I have had bowel accidents a few times. I have brought up several issues to the medical staff, as well as housing unit staff and nothing has been done. Please, if you can assist me, do so."
Prison medical care
A prisoner struggles to find a cure:
"I previously filed a grievance for failure to provide proper medical care related to an infection. I just received my second step grievance paperwork and will file it this week. After 6 doses of one medication and one tube of another medication, I still have the infection. I am not sure how to get this place to provide proper care, but am desperate to figure it out! This infection has been present for far too long!!"
A prisoner's observations
An inmate reflects on incarceration:
"Being in prison is worse than death. At least when you’re dead, the pain stops. Prison, however, is slow, daily torment. The life you once knew is no more. You can see it, but you can no longer interact with it. You’re trapped in a monotonous limbo watching time march on for your loved ones, but for you it does not. For me, my life was frozen in time when I came here 12 years ago."
In the latest post on the HFP Blog, Doug looks at President Obama’s Farewell Address, as we relate it to prisoner concerns: http://humanityforprisoners.blogspot.com
Promises to help HFP
January 12, 2016
A prisoner writes to thank HFP:
"PLEASE, let me know of any way that I may be able to help you now and in the future. GOD put me in contact with you for a reason and I have to believe that I am meant to continue once released. You have made the last 2 years so much better for me and others in MDOC. The least I can do is help you to continue your work. Again, please let me know how I can help you and HFP. GOD Bless you all very much. Take care, Mr R"
Taking positive steps while in prison
January 10, 2017
A prisoner updates HFP:
"THINGS ARE GOING GOOD HERE. I SHOULD BE GETTING A TUTOR JOB REAL SOON.
"I AM ALSO TRYING TO GET INVOLVED WITH SOME OF THE YOUTH MENTOR PROGRAMS THEY HAVE HERE.
"I'M ALSO TRYING TO ENROLL IN MOTTS COMMUNITY COLLEGE WHICH IS GOING TO BE MADE AVAILABLE TO 155 STUDENTS HERE THROUGH THE PELL GRANT.
"I'M ATTENDING CHURCH TWICE A WEEK AND THINGS ARE LOOKING BETTER THAN EVER. I'VE EVEN RECENTLY BEEN PUT IN TOUCH WITH 3 OF MY FAMILY MEMBERS."
January 6, 2017
An inmate tells HFP about the effects of the cold:
"Winter, and my state shoes are shot! Holes and cracks in the soles...feet get wet! Can’t get to the Quartermaster no matter how many kites I fly. Grievance system broken...takes forever, and then some. Am wearing plastic bags inside my shoes. Uncomfortable! Messy! Room is cold. Heart is warm!"
Not nice news in any season!
January 5, 2017
A prisoner shares tough news received around the holidays:
"I just received word from the prison staff today that my biological sister called to let them know that my mother passed away. I don’t know how to get in touch with any of them. I haven't talked to my sister since I was locked up in 2001. I barely know either of them, but I did have plans to get to know my mother when I finally got out. I know she cared about me, but for some reason she was always quite distant. We had talked a bit through letters when I first came to prison, but she was never very consistent. I would hear from her a few months and then not again for a few years. Well, I don’t really know how to take the news. I'm truly all alone now."
Making Christmas meaningful
January 3, 2017
Four women at Huron Valley requested permission to sing Christmas carols in the units where the most severe cases of mental and physical illness are treated:
"We wore Santa hats, made a poster and stockings for everyone. I saw Ms. K. She looks so good. She sang with us and smiled and laughed. It was great. I saw Ms. D. and Ms. R, whom I haven't seen since they fired me. They both were so happy, so full of life. It was wonderful and honestly the best Christmas in a very long time. To spend that time with such special women was an honor. I wouldn't have wanted to be any place else for the holidays. Praying that your New Year is wonderful. My New Year started Christmas evening. "
Making the best of Christmas!
December 30, 2016
A prisoner updates Humanity for Prisoners on his Christmas:
"I DID HAVE A GREAT CHRISTMAS DESPITE NO VISITS, BUT I DID MAKE A LOT OF PHONE CALLS TO FAMILY AND FRIENDS, I DID EAT A LOT OF COOK-UPS WITH MY FRIENDS AND BUNKIE IN HERE, AND I DID RECEIVE A LOT OF CARDS AND E-MAILS. MY FRIEND AND I EVEN WRAPPED UP HONEY BUNS AND MADE LITTLE "to/from" CARDS AND HANDED THEM OUT TO PEOPLE WHO HAD NOTHING. LIKE THE GRINCH HAD TO LEARN: CHRISTMAS COMES REGARDLESS OF PRESENTS, MEALS, OR ANY OTHER MATERIAL THING.
"GOD BLESS HFP!"
December 27, 2016
A prisoner writes about his Christmas:
"I have no problems with having happy holidays even in here. Christmas is, and probably will always be my favorite time of the year. Jesus Is the reason for the season. I have true joy in Jesus all year 'round; especially during the time we celebrate His birth. I have close to 100 Christmas songs on my MP3 player. Some of the classics to the more contemporary. I have Christmas in my head as I listen to Bing, Perry, Johny, Andy and others. God is making a way out of no way for me. Pray that I will be enjoying Christmas with my loved ones soon. Merry Christmas and a New Year full of blessing for you and yours! Standing on the promises of God, Mr. S"
Appreciation from an Inmate
December 20, 2016
A prisoner battling health issues writes to HFP:
"First of all, before I get on my rants and raves, I want to thank you from my heart. What you do for guys in my situation is truly a blessing. I don’t know how me or my family will ever be able to show you enough appreciation to thank you. You do not know me from Adam as they say in here, you don’t have any obligations to me or my family, yet you have gone above and beyond for them, for me, like you were, like you are family and it truly is appreciated more than you may understand."
Holiday Greetings to HFP
December 15, 2016
"Just a quick note to wish you a blessed and joyous holiday season and let you know that during this time of Thanksgiving, you have been in my thoughts and gratitude for all that you are doing to help me regain my freedom. You restored hope where there was none and gave me the strength to keep on fighting when I believed all was lost. Bless you for that. I know that God has angels on this earth to do his work for him and all of you are surely among them. It will, of course, take a band of angels to secure my freedom, but by the grace of God it will happen. Thank you for setting this miracle in motion. May this holiday season bring you many blessings! Fondly, Ms. N"
A Prisoner's Wife Thanks HFP
December 14, 2016
Optimistically opening envelopes during our Matching Funds Campaign, HFP found this note, tucked in with three $5 bills:
"Please accept my small donation along with my apology for not doing more. As a single mom and wife of a Michigan prisoner, I do not have much wiggle room in my budget. However, I will not forget your service to the forgotten in Michigan, and hope to do more as circumstances allow in the future. Please add my voice to those who fully support and appreciate the work you do to humanize individuals in the system. This past summer I called your office with a problem, and with your prompt help, it did work out! I am grateful to have someone in our corner! We will not forget your work. Happy Holidays...God bless!"
Holiday message of thanks!
December 13, 2016
A prisoner reflects during the holiday season:
"last night in group we spoke about what we have learned and what we get from group (12 steps). Personally, I've learned that I would not be the man I am today were I not the man I was at 21. In other words, though I am not at all proud of who I was, I found myself because who I was brought me to prison. I've learned to be honest with myself and admit when I am wrong. I've learned to accept the things I cannot change and face life on life's terms. I've found a sense of serenity and the intrinsic value in being useful to other people instead of using them. I am thankful for the hardships I have endured as they have given me insight into where I need to work. I like who I am today, and I think that were my father still alive, he could be proud of me too, despite where I am. Most importantly, I've learned how I am a part of life in everything I do. What I do or say can ripple across the lives of others, so I need to always think about what I do and what it may lead to before acting. My self-dialogue is central to my feelings, and I can talk myself up just as easy as I have talked myself into anger in the past--I just have to put in the effort to alter my perspectives and see those of others. I am grateful today, and I am hoping for good things for you, your family, your friends, your community, and the world at Thanksgiving time."
December 9, 2016
An inmate in Michigan's prison for women writes:
"I pray you have a wonderful holiday season. Eat some holiday food for me. Preferably white meat and dessert with ice cream. I'm so bummed they have eliminated ice cream from all of our meals and cannot figure out why no one is comforted.?????????? It's elementary my dear Watson. Sometimes the answers are so obvious they are right in front of your face and people do not see them. True???????????? God sees!!!!!!!!!Thankful for that. Happy holidays and holiday hugs."
More thoughts from a teacher
December 8, 2016
A teacher shares more thoughts with HFP:
"As an educator, I am appalled at how the educational system in our country has failed individuals behind bars. The need in here is great. The prison programming does little to provide these women with any marketable job skills, and so they leave prison and return to what they know best, which is a life of crime."
A former teacher speaks up
December 6, 2016
A former teacher recently became aware of the work of HFP. She shared some thoughts on our criminal justice system:
"For years I taught core democratic values to my students, and as a patriot, I truly believed in the constitutional rights that our forefathers fought to secure and died to protect. But when you are accused of a crime, you quickly discover that those rights are nothing more than empty promises on faded parchment. Decades of legislative encroachment, presidential “executive decisions,” and liberal judicial interpretations of the Constitution have surreptitiously eroded those precious rights. I feel as though the judicial system that I believed to be fair and just has betrayed me."
A Simple Note
December 1, 2016
With all the requests the Humanity for Prisoners receives on a daily basis, the office can also count on simple messages like this arriving each day as well:
"To Doug, Matt, and all at HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS who work on behalf of so many, THANK YOU!!! You are a blessing! Signed, Ms. A, and all the ladies at the Women’s Huron Valley Facility."
A prisoner writes to HFP:
"What do you tell a youngster (17 to 25) who is serving a natural life sentence for a murder that he didn't technically do, but that he was at when a friend or friends pulled the trigger? I am increasingly coming into contact with guys like this. I don’t know what to tell them to keep them alive...to keep them striving for something...to keep them at least holding on to hope. Do you have ideas? Religion doesn’t work. Faith in the system doesn’t work. I have a bit of a reputation for pushing youngsters to improve and better themselves because of my way of relating to them on their level and using my past history and reputation. I try to show them a side of life that most of them never imagined. I try to show them how to love themselves first.
"So the administration often pairs me up with a youngster for that very reason. But the hardest thing in the world for me to do is not be able to give hope to a youngster in here for life. Have you ever seen a zombie? I mean how do you motivate a person who has no possibility of getting out? Currently I've had two situations where they stood there with tears in their eyes, and I don’t know what to say or do to make it better."
Very few Michigan prisoners get a visit. Could that situation be improved? Are prison visitors treated well in Michigan? Some HFP thoughts in today’s blog: http://humanityforprisoners.blogspot.com/
An Inmate Thankful for HFP
November 23, 2016
A soon-to-be-released prisoner writes HFP:
"The journey has begun . I am at the re-entry program and I have already started the class, but my computer skills are not that great . I am learning though but it is a struggle, but I think I can manage. With the grace of the man upstairs I will succeed in this trial . I would again like to thank all of your staff and especially you Doug. Thank You, Your Friend Mr. J."
HFP gets an "attaboy" from WHV
November 22, 2016
An inmate at Michigan's prison for women writes to HFP:
"Thinking about Humanity For Prisoners and everyone involved today. The hard work and compassion you put into helping prisoners is amazing. I as well as many of the women here appreciate EVERYTHING you do to make our stay here humane. Blessings on this gorgeous day."
November 18, 2016
Many prisoners take advantage of whatever resources are available behind bars for self improvement:
"I'm well, just seeking to always improve myself. And the tools I use are the programs that the prison offer. I read a lot of non-fictional books, books that will add value to my character, and ultimately strengthen my thinking ability. I thank you all for all the work of love you all do for humanity."
How stormy weather can even affect inmates
November 17, 2016
A prisoner explains his predicament to HFP:
"I am trying to figure out how I can help my woman to get her car fixed. The last storm we had, a tree fell on her car and now she is unable to get around or get back and forth to work. It has been very hard on her and very stressful on me, because i know what she is going through. I hate to witness her unhappy and unable to do what makes her happy. Nonetheless, I just continue to pray and let her know that I am doing what I can to help her."
HFP Leaves An Impression
November 15, 2016
HFP Receives thanks from behind bars::
"I thank you for assisting an old guy in our unit, in his plight, as I always feel you are a godsend to many who never know you help them and affect their lives. Most men just are not that aware of the things that transpire around them and just think they happen automatically... but all in all please do know that I thank you and send many prayers for you."
Making the best with what you have
November 10, 2016
A prisoner writes to HFP:
"I wanted to bring you up to date with what i'm doing while here in prison. I've recently completed a Relapse Prevention Program that deals with diving into understanding what sets a person on a spiral downward and what a person needs to do to prevent that spiral. Ultimately it helps you to identify your triggers and coping skills to prevent you from spiraling in the first place. When I completed the program, the facilitator gave those of us that completed the program a certificate. Also in our RPP we list our support system. For my support system, I put you down as one of the ones that have offered me spiritual and emotional support and someone that will have no problem giving me advice and guidance if and when I'm released."
When discouragement wins
November 3, 2016
For months HFP has been trying to help a 53-year-old, seriously ailing inmate with little success. Finally this message crossed our desk:
Good news/bad news. I had a video consult with a PA from infectious disease yesterday. Good news, they offered me treatment. Bad news, I told them NO!!!!!! If they won't properly treat my pain, forget it. In fact, I told them, ALL the medications they are giving me DO NOT work at all. High blood. pressure, still high. Thyroid... no relief whatsoever. Still have acid reflux. In short, start giving treatments that have an effect. Won't even acknowledge renal disease or tryglicerides. This illusion of appropriate care is going to stop today. I choose to die :-(. Thank you for all your hard work and efforts. I would like it if you could continue helping me get some pain relief, but I understand if you don't. Love and Praise Jesus Christ, I put my life in His hands now. After all Health care staff, 3 months ago, told me it was too late for treatment, so I'm already somewhat prepared to die. God Loves the work you do!"
For the information of our supporters, Mr J may have given up, but we have not! We are pleased to report that a compassionate physician is currently communicating with him.
Poor medical care
November 1, 2016
A prisoner reports on his experience trying to get medical attention:
"On 8/7 I was having medical problems, and I told the CO I needed to see a nurse or a doctor. He told me when he gets time. For the next 4 1/2 hours I tried to get the CO to get a nurse or doctor, and he kept telling me he is too busy doing hair cuts and cleaning up. When medical did their night time med round is when I got to see the nurse. At this time she asked me why I did not get help sooner. They ended up sending me to the ER. They told me I could have died."
Another former prisoner pays tribute to HFP
October 27, 2016
I recently have been released from WHV and have been following you. I followed you while I was incarcerated and I want you to know how much of an impact you are making and how much those women look forward to hearing from you. I am doing wonderful. And if there is anything anything at all I can do to help you I would love to. It really is tough. I just want you to know you are appreciated. Thank you for everything!!!
A prisoner's prayer
October 25, 2016
"Several years back I started a prayer that I pray every day, and I had it tattooed on my right arm. (I pray every day for the courage and the strength to be a better man today.) I insist on not leaving this world as a deficit...I want to leave behind something good and lasting. I write with love and respect for you and all that you do."
October 20, 2016
In many cases, HFP becomes a prisoner's only contact to the outside world. This prisoner describes his situation:
"All I have left is my mother, but she only writes when I write her a letter first. I do not make phone calls because I have nobody to call, have not used a phone since 2013. Nobody will ever care about me. I keep asking for pen pals, but as soon as they see what I’m in prison for they want nothing to do with me. I’m tired of not having a support team."
Cuisine at Oaks CF
October 18, 2016
From an inmate at Oaks Correctional Facility in Manistee:
"On September 10, 2016, I was served my dinner tray in segregation and I found a maggot in my potatoes. I have heard about the same thing going on in general population, where other inmates have found maggots in their food."
Shameful thoughts about mentally ill
October 13, 2016
Background: Women experiencing more severe cases of mental illness at WHV are in the Residential Treatment Program (RTP) or the unit called “Acute.” From one of the inmates:
"I overheard a male officer talking to a female officer yesterday. He said, 'They need to take the RTP and Acute women to Russia or wherever they put the concentration camps in World War Two.'"
Poor medical care
October 11, 2016
Ms. D’s mother was so ill in the infirmary at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility that she had to be transferred to a hospital. Now her daughter is livid about the apparent lack of care while in prison:
"I am so angry right now that the staff couldn’t be bothered to make sure she wasn't cleaned enough to not cause her whole bottom and back and private area to be bright purple and sore. Almost like she wasn’t a person, so it wasn’t a big deal to let it get that bad. I know she was sick. But damn. I can't believe what I saw on her today. I might just be venting but she shouldn’t have been neglected like this."
No PBF donation for HFP
October 6, 2016
The Warden of Michigan’s only prison for women refuses to allow the Warden’s Forum to approve donations from the Prisoners Benefit Fund to HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS, even though such contributions have been approved in several other facilities. Said Ms. S, who serves on the Warden’s Forum:
"It is really sad that they will only let us donate to the places they feel fit and not where we want to. Their reason is you are not a charitable organization. WOW! They didn't do their research!"
October 4, 2016
At a recent meeting of the HFP Board of Directors, Executive Director Matt Tjapkes informed directors that EVERY day we receive thanks from a least one inmate. Some are the messages are lengthy and effusive, and then some are short and to the point, like this one:
"THANK YOU FOR BEING A LIGHT!"
Dirty shower stalls at WHV
September 29, 2016
HFP has seen a rise recently in messages concerning dirty shower stalls at the women's prison. Here's a message from one of those prisoners:
"Every time I email you, the MDOC stops it for being in violation! Still unsanitary and unhealthy situation due to inadequate cleaning supplies dispensed."
Chance for Life likes HFP!
September 27, 2016
A recent thank you to HFP after president Doug Tjapkes spoke to the Chance for Life Organization:
"On behalf of the CHANCE FOR LIFE ORGANIZATION, and all of the men here at Cotton Correctional Facility, I would like to thank you for attending and participating in our August 27, 2016, Peace Month event. Your message really touched all of us at Cotton! Thank you for taking out the time to spend with us. We all benefited from your presence."
Not a nice place for this handicapped woman!
September 21, 2016
A handicapped prisoner asks for help:
"This morning the aide that was assigned to take me was working, and the officer on duty would not ask another aide to take me to breakfast and med. She told me to find my own aide. I had to scoot backwards in my wheelchair to chow and back and meds. If an aide does not want to go to breakfast It’s the same. Can you please help me?"
September 20, 2016
An injured prisoner writes HFP:
"I broke my left hand ring finger on February 17, and it is still broken. Even though they have sent me to the doctor for X-rays twice, they have done nothing else. I am in pain and have yet to receive any treatment. I cannot make a fist, wash the right side of my body properly, nor can I lift anything over 10 lbs with my left hand. Healthcare has left me to suffer 2 and a half months saying, 'This is not an emergency.'"
Mold in the showers
September 16, 2017
A prisoner trying to get the showers cleaned up writes HFP:
"I kited the Warden here and my unit counselor regarding the mold in the showers in hopes to get a written response from them but that was back when I first mentioned it to you, and I still haven't received any response from either of them yet. I'm going to kite again and see if they respond this time and if not then I just have to file a grievance about it but the shower walls here are definitely lined with mold and always have a musty smell indicating a lack of proper cleaning."
What if this was your mom?
September 15, 2016
Ms. D is 71 years of age, is struggling with a combination of dementia and serious physical issues. As a result, another inmate is hovering over her. The caregiver called the HFP office this week with this report:
-Ms. D was not able to get a new colostomy bag Friday
-They told her she should rinse the bags out in toilet water and re-use them
-They told her bags are too expensive, she's only going to get one every three days now, and if it gets full, to empty and rinse in toilet.
Ongoing struggles of a mentally ill inmate
September 13, 2016
A prisoner sends a plea to HFP:
"I went a little crazy the past week. I had what I like to call a schizophrenic coma, lol, I just went about NUTS! They have refused to evaluate for G.I.D. Gender Identity Disorder. They seem to be attacking me at every corner. Two of the COs have told me to my face to "Kill yourself!” Can you guys help me??"
Another prisoner protest
September 9, 2016
A prisoner updates HFP on a recent protest:
"The prisoners of Lakeshore CF in Coldwater protested the chow hall once again. The guys in here are getting fed up with not only the food portions and having to argue with the stewards to get the proper portions and the quality, but also the overall actions of prison officials. Groups see them taking things from prisoners, little by little. Staff disrespecting prisoners on a daily basis with the way they talk to them and by refusing to follow the more polices that benefit prisoners. Policy is only there to help staff do as they please to prisoners. The grievance process has turned into a technical procedural trap used to avoid addressing legitimate complaints as opposed to giving an opportunity for prisoners to voice mistreatment."
September 8, 2016
Recently HFP was able to help a Michigan prisoner reconnect with an old friend in another part of the country. That friend, grateful for our efforts, made these kind comments:
"I'm so grateful for the work you're doing. It is so desperately needed, and I can only imagine how much your support and advocacy means to every prisoner you connect with. I wish we had an organization like yours here in the DC area. I'd be banging down their door for a job."
Question from Michigan inmate
September 6, 2016
A Michigan inmate asks:
"WE SEE BLACK LIVES MATTER DEMONSTRATIONS IN THE WORLD...AND NOW THEY EVEN DOING WHITE LIVES MATTER DEMONSTRATIONS IN THE WORLD. WHERE IS YOUR “PRISONERS’ LIVES MATTER” DEMONSTRATION?"
A big heart!
September 2, 2016
Mr. K has serious physical problems that demand a lot of attention, and require serious monitoring and treatment. Despite all of his many reasons to complain and/or give up, he finds time to help others!
"For the past 2 years I've had the opportunity to assist inmates with their mental health issues along with assisting them with their medical/physical concerns (wheel chair aid, etc). I serve as a POA (Prisoner Observation Aid), meaning I sit for four hours watching inmates to make sure they don’t harm themselves. There are those who truly need the most important aspect of life in my eyes: someone who unconditionally cares and listens. Honestly, due to the conflicts I have with unjust staff members, inmate issues, and personal family problems (cancer, etc), THIS OPPORTUNITY TO ASSIST THESE HUMAN BEINGS IS WHAT KEEPS MY OWN HEART ALIVE!"
A positive medical report!
September 1, 2016
HFP receives so many complaints about prison health care. In the midst of all those storms came this ray of sunshine:
"I’m thankful to have this opportunity to share with you what’s been going on with me and my spirit. June 6, 2016, I had a total hip replacement. Everything went well, Praise be to GOD! I had to go to rehab for the physical use of my leg. Some days are harder than others but I keep it movin.’ I know that GOD got me. I won't compliant."
Lifers write the Governor
August 30, 2016
One particular group of prisoners that Humanity for Prisoners often gets invited to speak to is the Michigan Lifers Association, a group of prisoners serving life sentences. Recently, they shared with us an open letter to the Governor, and we now share that with you - click HERE.
It ain't your neighborhood drug store!
August 27, 2016
A female prisoner reports on prescription issues:
"So out in America, when someone is prescribed a medication it is sent to the pharmacy and the medication is filled correct? But when the medication is received, does that person not receive a warnings-and-side effects sheet? Isn't that normal protocol? Why doesn't that happen here? Why are these people not getting their side effects sheets? One person I know just went over to healthcare the other day all turned up and twisted because all of her muscles were tightening due to a side effect of her medication. We didn't find out until WAY AFTER that that was what was happening. Mind you, this person I pushed over in a wheelchair and sat and listened to the nurses accuse her of faking her symptoms...."
Long time no hear
August 26, 2016
A report from a prisoner's wife:
"My husband got his new hearing aid today after over 2 years of waiting. We had a harder time than ever on the phone because the phones (at Lapeer at least, but I think most facilities) don't have the coil in them that makes a phone hearing aid friendly. Without that coil, a hearing aid doesn't work for the phone. In addition, he has been having bleeding from at least one ear. But you know he won't get proper otolaryngology care. God help him."
Label seen on food packages at WHV
August 25, 2016
FOR PRISONER AND ANIMAL USE ONLY!
One prisoner trying to make a difference
August 23, 2016
A prisoner updates HFP on his work behind bars:
"I am putting together a group for LIFERS "How to DO LIFE while LIVING LIFE!" I feel that Lifers need more support in here. So I am trying really hard to put this together. I talked to the Deputy Warden about it. She said that there are some books, workbooks that would help me and if I cannot find them she would help. So if you know of anything or can find anything please send me the name and author so I can check it out. Thanks again for all your help in all that you do!"
Olympians vs. WHV inmates
August 20, 2016
A female prisoner compares living conditions:
"This morning, I'm watching the news, and the olympians in Rio are complaining of their living conditions... complaining that there are exposed wires, no shower curtains, water leaking out of the walls.... and it makes national news. WHAT IN THE .... ARE WE, CHOPPED LIVER?! WHY DON'T WE MATTER! Why is it national news for them to live like that but its feverously swept under the rug that we are living in and around these same conditions AND WORSE. I'll tell you why, because we don't have access to put videos of our conditions online! Our contact with the outside world is minimized! And who is going to believe or care about us convicts against the higher ups in the facilities anyhow (present company excluded of course my dear sweet friends :-) ) !! ..."
"At the risk of being tacky, and a play on recent events #InmateLivesMatter....
Crime in prison
August 19, 2016
A prisoners shares his worries about his missing property:
"I was robbed in May, so I have no TV or MP3 or headphones. I doubt they will find it, and the other stuff I lost. I’m sure it’s all been renumbered now, and will never be found."
Drug problems at WHV
August 18, 2016
Women have been reporting to HFP on the seriousness of drug problems in their facility. Then came this report on how some drugs are coming in:
"They arrested a prisoner and her visitor from the visiting room again for passing drugs. The prisoner and her mother were arrested outside the visit for passing drugs. As a LIFER I am so sad that this is going on in here. I want to be pro-active in helping to STOP the drug activity, however it's hard working with the administration. It seems instead of trying to 'help' their answer is to 'take away', on just about everything. How do we stop this with an administration that is not interested in our ideas for helping the addicts. We live this life, some of us have been addicts, we know what they are and are not doing. So it seems that they could take some of our knowledge to fight this battle of drugs in here. I just needed to vent I guess"
Ants on the WHV visiting room floor!
August 17, 2016
An update on conditions in the visiting room of Michigan's only women's prison:
"Today in the visiting room, my family and I and another visit were looking on the floor and noticed 2 clear cut holes in the floor where multiple ants were crawling in and out of. I’m not talking a couple ants and a barely noticeable hole. They were very clear holes and the amount of ants crawling in and out of it reminded me of watching an ant hill being built. IT WAS DISGUSTING! You can imagine my disdain considering CHILDREN PLAY ON THESE FLOORS! Mine included. Now I asked for shift command and continued to ask multiple times through out the hours of 6 and 7. In the end the officer told me "Why don't you just send a kite" ... another officer said Well they're just ants its not like they're hurting anything" ... "This is crazy that nobody cared about this. I’m going to grieve it. That’s the only thing I can do!"
August 10, 2016
From a prisoner in St. Louis (MI) Correctional Facility:
"This observation unit receives meals delivered from Food Service, as we’re not allowed to leave the unit to go to chow. The cups containing water for us to drink are always dirty, with Kool Aid residue from previous meals. Not many prisoners complain for fear of retaliation from unit officers, even though some prisoners have contracted infections from germs due to drinking from these cups...cups we’re being issued daily."
Giving back to the community
August 9, 2016
An inmate at Macomb Correctional Facility writes:
"I work in the garden, and all we did was harvest this morning---713 pounds of zucchini, lettuce, kale, mustard, cucumbers and peppers for the New Haven food pantry. I love being able to help the community with food. This is a way for me to give back for all the pain I’ve caused so many people."
Another Yarn Update
August 4, 2016
HFP continues to make large donations of yarn to Michigan prisons for use in hobby-craft programs. Here’s an update from one of the inmates at Parnall CF in Jackson:
"Our activities director told me that we have made and they have delivered 78 Lap Blankets to the VA Medical Center in Ann Arbor and 40 Lap and 10 full size blankets to the VA Hospital in Battle Creek. We are busy making more now. It appears that we are going to be making quite a few things to be donated to a lot of different places. I feel glad that we are able to do this and to help others."
Culinary delight at WHV
August 2, 2016
An inmate at Michigan's women's prison writes:
"I was eating lunch today and ladies went to the Trinity people with maggots in their canned peaches. I ate mine and saw nothing but were they contaminated? If they keep saving food in this heat........ I witnessed the ladies that did that."
Prisoners being kind to veterans
July 29, 2016
A short message from Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson, where inmates create blankets for veterans using yarn donated by HFP:
"The crochet program is going extremely well and we just made deliveries to the VA Medical Center in Ann Arbor and to the VA Hospital in Battle Creek. Soon we will be making paper and wood Christmas trees for them."
Words of appreciation from WHV
July 28, 2016
A female prisoner corresponds with HFP:
"I have been diligently still addressing numerous issues within the justice system. It is extremely time consuming as you know so well. I need you to know that even in our quiet times of correspondence you're an important part of my life. There is such despair for folks that are alone in this world at the present. Together, we are folks that are looking forward to our Savior’s return with love and prayers for one another. thank you for staying with me. It is appreciated more than you will ever possibly understand."
Not enough to eat!
July 26, 2016
An update on prison food service:
"They are shorting us on our food again. I wrote a grievance last week about a short portion...it was a sub-meal. They were suppose to give us 3 oz of cheese or 6 slices of cheese. They were giving out 2.2 oz and would not weigh the portion, so I took mine back and weighed it. It was 2.2oz. The steward said from now on they would weigh the portion. So today they did the same thing on the apple crisp. It was supposed to be a half a cup they gave us 1\4 cup. I complained about it, asked them to weigh it, and they refused. I went to the sergeant...he told them that they were wrong and made them give more out. There was at least 8 others that complained and I was told to sit down and the others were given there correct portion."
Not a nice place for new moms
July 22, 2016
A female inmate who gave birth behind bars talks about some of the issues she deals with:
"After we have our children, those of us who are fortunate enough to have visits with our children, very quickly run into issues. There is only an allowance of 2 bottles, a pacifier, and a single layered blanket allowed in. Which is fine for the first few weeks. But after a while my baby started teething. There is nothing on there for a teething child. Also, obviously all the toys in the visiting room are handled constantly by children... so when a 0-12 month child is there... what is there for the baby? Nothing, because no matter what it is, it goes straight in the mouth! There isn't an offer of teething cookies or maybe plastic jars of baby food in the machines... so now that my baby is old enough to eat more than just formula, what do I do? Clearly I don't have many options. Sometimes there is yogurt in the machines. Oh, and half the time there is no wipes in the bubble.... how is my family to change my babies diapers properly when there are no wipes? Gross."
Another Complaint from WHV
July 21, 2016
An update from the women's prison:
"Apparently our Warden has expressed his great desire to make this "as much like a prison as possible,” because he seems to think that doing this will make people not come back. Now, I understand that many believe that we need “retributive" action for crimes committed. BUT prisons and justice systems must move forward as time goes on, and clearly what we are in need of is "rehabilitative" action! What is so wrong with looking at the countries that have been around years and years longer than we and take a cue from them!! I've taken the time to do some research and Germany and The Netherlands have changed their prison systems to mimic as close to the real world as possible in order for a smoother transition for re-entry. While our recidivism rate is nearly 80%, theirs is in the single digits! .... HELLOOO!! OBVIOUSLY WHAT THEY ARE DOING IS WORKING.... why are we going backwards and expecting better results?"
No more ice machines for women
July 19, 2016
A note from the women's prison:
"This morning when we got back from breakfast, workers were in our unit taking our ice machine. Mind you, of all the units, only 2 of them had working ice machines left. Upon asking "why are they taking our ice machines!" The response was "The Warden said that if the ice machine issue keeps getting brought up at the Warden’s Forum, he was going to take them all from us." Mind you. The reason it keeps getting brought up is because we would like for the broken ones to get fixed. What good are the ice machines we have if they don't work? Our PRISONER BENEFIT FUND is what originally paid for these machines in the first place, and our PBF is what we wanted to pay for our repairs or for new ice machines. This man just took away the WORKING machines that our PBF paid for, and REFUSES to fix the broken ones with our own dollars. Oh, but our PBF is good enough to pay for the rocks that he wants to line our walkways with…rocks that we could care less if we have. Someone just went to seg for having rocks in their room on their desk not too long ago!"
Content in all things
July 15, 2016
Words from a prisoner:
"I am thankful and bless that He has let me see another 4 of July in the best of health and a sound mind. I do have faith this is my year. As I have told you, I do not have faith in the parole board or man. I believe in the word of God and it is His will that all His people be free."
Prisoner gratitude for HFP
July 14, 2016
A recent message to HFP:
"Thank you, again, for your wonderful encouragement and support for all these years! You continue to give me hope in this depressing and dangerous place!"
Content in all things
July 12, 2016
Words of a prisoner:
"Things are going well, sleeping good at night. God is so good to me! Glory to God! I have been studying a great deal on the Grace of God, and it is awesome. The deeper I dig, the more wonderful it is. I am working on a teaching that breaks it down so that a person can read it for extreme clarity."
Personal experience with healthcare
July 9, 2016
A prisoner shares his experience dealing with health care:
"I’m scheduled to see the doctor next week about problems that I have been having with my hernia. I’m hoping that he does help me out. If not then I’m going to start the grievance process. I also have been getting charged a 5-dollar co-pay every time I go over there to get checked out. I do not understand how they can keep charging me 5-dollars for an on-going condition that keeps getting worse and won’t go away without surgery that they keep denying me of. It’s like they are just gonna keep robbing me of my money for ever. I’m so disgusted with the way they have been treating me. It's double jeopardy. I keep having complications and they keep charging me for the same issue. It’s not right, or fair..."
Not a nice place to be
July 8, 2016
A prisoner looking for a transfer to a different facility writes HFP:
"I HOPE YOU’LL HELP ME OUT OF HERE, IT IS REAL BAD, JUST HAD 10 PRISONERS GET STABBED A FEW DAYS AGO AND WE’VE BEEN ON LOCK DOWN FOR 3 DAYS. ANY HELP I WOULD BE GRATEFUL."
July 7, 2016
Another prisoner shares his thoughts on health care behind bars, and HFP’s possible involvement:
"There are many who could use your influence for health care in here. Many have no people on the outside to pick up their cause and our care facility is sending people back to the units to die instead of providing available care. Some are receiving help and for that we are thankful, however just enough to avoid the lawsuits from those who can muster the help to do so. I don't know if you have the artillery to fight this battle but I know that it is not the Lord's will for his creations to be treated like that."
Discouragement and resignation
July 5, 2016
A frustrated prisoner writes to HFP:
"I am sorry to say that I have come to realize that there is nothing I can do about my on-going problems with the staff. Besides, I'm just tired of trying and knowing there will never be an end to any of it. So I have chosen to accept it and to take control of the only thing I can control. Don't feel sorry for me, I've lived my life to the best I could and tried to be a better person than when I came in here. But no matter how many changes I make, no one will ever let me move past who I was and be who I am now. Staff and inmates. So I leave you with an appreciative heart, and that you no longer have to worry, for my fight has come to an end. Continue to fight for those who can't do it themselves,but I've chosen to stop mine....God bless."
Thoughts on prison health care
July 2, 2016
A prisoner vents in a note to HFP:
"I'm frustrated still with health care. Everyone from the outside quips how what we go through is just like it is on the outside. NO it is not! At the doctor you can explain all your symptoms and get everything taken care of at once. Here if you write about 2 or 3 things they send you a kite back and tell you to send one about just 1 problem. $5.00. Then send a kite about the next problem. $5.00. Now you know some of the symptoms may be related and with an income of $20 per month they sure expect us to get $200 worth of stuff with it. Yep, it sickens me and that is why many of us give up and never find out what we have until it gets to be so serious that it is sometimes terminal. Praying God breaks this mountain down for good."
On incarceration and death
July 1, 2016
Prisoners cannot respond to death the way we can, and the pain seems worse. Says one prisoner, in a message to HFP:
"Over the course of the last 1 1/2 years, I have been faced with the death of my mother, my grandmother, a cousin and two close friends.This, combined with the issues I have been having with staff, made for a very difficult time for me."