An appreciated visit!
February 13, 2020
A friend told HFP about an inmate who hadn’t had a visit for years and asked if someone could see him. Our Medical Director Dr. Bulten was heading that way, so he stopped in to see the inmate. This response came from our caller: George wrote to tell me that he had a wonderful visit with Dr Bob and he wanted me to pass on his gratitude to you for organising his first visit in 26 years. Thank you so much, it warms my heart that Dr Bob took the time to go out and spend time with George! Only 12% of Michigan prisoners even receive a visit!
Man's Best Friend
January 28, 2020
Our friend Douglas is one of the inmate dog trainers. He gives us this report:
"Aspen, the cute all-white poodle, has gone back to PAWS for Phase-II training, so I'm excited for her. In her place I now have a 73-pound Golden Retriever named Byron who is 14 months old and falls asleep at the drop of a hat. He's a big, affectionate pup who seems eager to please and to learn, just so long as we don't bother his six or seven daily naps. :-) Well, my fur baby just woke up in mid-snore, so think I'll take him out for a potty break as I've run out of things to report. Will chirp with you again soon."
Words of appreciation
January 23, 2020
A client lets HFP know how he feels:
"If you haven't heard it lately - you and organization are appreciated. I thank you behalf of all those who use your services and myself. Have a great day and sensational year(s)."
HFP Blog: We love the good stories, but most that we see and hear aren’t very nice. See today’s entry HERE.
Clients call for Clemency Council reinstatement
January 16, 2020
A group of Humanity for Prisoners clients say the time is right for Michigan’s new Governor and Attorney General to reinstate a clemency council. Governor Granholm formed such a council in 2007 (see the Executive Order HERE ) to assist the Parole Board. Thanks to that council’s work 168 prisoners received clemency…37 of them serving life without parole. Governor Granholm’s successor, Gov. Rick Snyder, dissolved the council.
Our clients say that legislative changes are certainly possible, but it’s a slow process. Governor Granholm made the move by executive order. It involved 7 volunteers from a cross section of society. In other words, it happened in a hurry and didn’t cost the state anything.
One client, who is serving a life sentence, says: “I think a united effort should be undertaken by all prison and sentencing reform groups to reinstate the council.”
January 2, 2019
Here’s how one client expressed gratitude to HFP:
"As always, thanks for all that you're doing to make our state a less punitive and more reconciling place."
Blessings for HFP
December 27, 2019
Our client Mr. T sent this holiday greeting:
"I just want to bless you with the thoughts of love, peace and joy for all the days of your lives. Continue to be the inspiration and encouraging person you are. I pray for prosperity and the wealth of God's kingdom to flow smoothly and effortlessly in you life. That the year 2020 and beyond prove to be the best days of your life. That perfect health and wholeness permeates every atom and cell in your body. Love you always, Matt!!!"
On life in prison
December 17, 2019
A client shares a recent experience:
"This morning, December 1, I walked into our chapel and turned on all of the music equipment for worship while everyone was filing in for service. I immediately noticed a metal adjustment rod missing from my microphone stand, a potential stabbing instrument in the hands of the wrong prisoner. Things like this are quickly sold, to be fashioned as weaponry on the prisoner black market. I reported the missing piece to the officers, who played back the previous chapel service camera. They discovered the perpetrator, retrieved the rod, and issued him a ticket. Trust works favorably in here, both ways. Every time I assist with improving the safety and security, it’s another merit notch on my belt."
An outgoing prisoner’s thoughts
December 12, 2019
Doug and Adam connected back in HFP’s formative years when our founder made a prison presentation in the U.P. Now, after serving 26 years, Adam is looking forward to a parole. In his note to Doug, he says:
"Know I love and appreciate you. Seeing it from in here, I know what a huge impact you have made on peoples’ lives. If nothing else, you have shown them they are not alone and that SOMEONE cares. That is not a small feat. Keep up the good work and please make sure the rest of HFP knows just how deep their efforts reach."
An exceptional Thanksgiving Greeting
December 4, 2019
A Thanksgiving greeting from a client:
"I pause on this day of Thanksgiving to thank you for your friendship over the years. I noticed values for 'goods' in the marketplace…they are rated as: Good, Better, and Best. Guess what? In a personal metrics...you're all at the top of the list---The BEST!"
November 29, 2019
A client's note to HFP on Wednesday:
"As the year have rapidly transpired and we come upon the Thanksgiving season I wanted the thank you for your steadfest support and love. I am speaking on behalf of the thousands of men and women you have assisted, encouraged, and shared moments with, we are thankful for you and love you all so much. May your Thanksgiving be filled with love of family, passion of faith, and great meals of memories. Take a minute and say "I love you" to your family members and tell them I said "thank you for sharing you with us". Happy Thanksgiving!"
The heat is on!
November 21, 2019
On Nov. 8, with a snowstorm on the way, HFP received this message:
"Some of the cells have heat but mine and quite a few more don't. We have an arctic wave coming."
That same day, HFP reaches out to the facility to draw their attention to the situation.
Three days later:
"They took a bunch of temperature tests in the rooms. The LT was here and he is looking into it."
Finally, one week after the original contact:
"They fixed the heat as of 11-13-19 and they put in some salamander heaters through the window of the hallway. Its nice and toasty, we now have to crack a window to keep from being roasted alive, Good Work. Thank You to you and your team."
Costly health care
November 20, 2019
In Michigan prisons, a visit to the health care (not necessarily a doctor) costs $5. Starting standard pay for a job inside is $.74 to $1.24 PER DAY. Our client, Mr. E, talks about what decisions he's forced to make:
"I AM BEING PRICED OUT OF SEEKING MEDICAL CARE. MY PAY FOR THIS MOTH WAS DEBITTED $10.00 FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT. I WORK A PRISON JOB AS MY ONLY SOURCE OF MONEY. I RECEIVE NO OUTSIDE HELP. THAT AMOUNT OF MONEY IS TAKING FIVE DAYS PAY FROM ME. I CANNOT AFFORD THAT WITH EVERYTHING ELSE I HAVE TO PAY FOR. CHRONIC CARE ISSUES ONCE COVERED THIS BUT NOT ANY MORE...
"IN THAT I CANT AFFORD THESE DEBTS, I AM LEFT TO NOT INFORM MEDICAL AND SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES. IF I BLEED OUT THEY CAN AT LEAST PICK UP MY COLD DEAD BODY. MANY OF OUR MEDS HAVE BEEN PUSHED TO OVER-THE-COUNTER, WHICH WE HAVE TO BUY WITH OUR PAY... ONCE THEY TAKE ALL YOUR PAY BUYING MEDS AND SEEING MEDICAL BECOMES A STANDING DEBT WE OWE THE STATE THAT MUST BE PAID IN THE FUTURE BY US OR OUR FAMILIES WHEN THE STATE SEIZES OUR LIFE-INSURANCE ON OUR DEATH."
Putting a plan together
November 19, 2019
Mr. L needed an outline for his relapse prevention plan, and came to HFP. We sent a template to him, and received this response:
"Thanks for the 10/8/19 reply to the problem I had with the relapse prevention plan. Great advice and much appreciated. I got ahold of a 17 page outline that was great; not sure who put it out but got it copied and have something to work with now. I'm going to send some funds your way soon. Really appreciate all the help you provide. You guys provide an invaluable service that is most appreciated in here and lacking from a lot of other places we write. Take care and you will remain in my prayers."
A client's take on HFP
November 12, 2019
HFP client Mr. M shares his thoughts on our organization:
HFP have been so kind to me and other inmates at the Jackson Correctional Facility.
HFP are there for prisoners that do not have any family support, this organization help everyone that contact them if it is legal aid, help preparing for the parole board, or just someone to talk to Matt and HFP is always there.
HFP is a outstanding organization, and people all around the world should take a look into HFP, and also donate to this perfect cause.
Your donations is really helping prisoners live in the institution comfortable do to the circumstances we are in. We believe in this organization because when we call on HFP they are always there to help us. Thank you HFP for your help we can always count on HFP for help.
Domestic Violence Workshop Comes to Gus Harrison CF
November 7, 2019
The subject of domestic violence hit home for more than two-dozen inmates at Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian. Our correspondent, Ricardo Ferrell, reports that nearly 30 inmates turned out for a workshop conducted by Candy Taulton and Jess Little, legal advocates for the Catherine Cobb Safe House of Lenawee County. The National Lifers chapter had scheduled the event in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. Ricardo said the presenters pointed out that everyone is impacted by domestic violence. He said the pair explained the tactics normally experienced within an intimate partner relationship which often causes a number of things to occur, such as harmful language, intimidation, threats, harassment and physical violence. Said Ferrell: “Let's all remember we can make a difference, and say, ‘I can be the change.’”
Grateful for recognition
November 6, 2019
An inmate battling ADD writes HFP:
"I feel I get discarded a lot.
Like my case that got me here in prison to begin with.
No one seemed to cared to listen, or to know the truth.
I'm not trash and am a person who wants the best of life and wants the help.
I sought it out before prison because I wasn't getting anywhere without medication. I don't like medication but I know I need it for this.
Thank you for treating me as a person Matt."
HFP Blog: One might say that the work of HFP is much like the work of deacons in a church. At least, those are Doug’s thoughts this morning. Read HERE.
Bad math in Lansing (You can help!)
November 5, 2019
Due to some bad math in Lansing, some prisoner educational programming may take the hit. A "fund shift" in the state budget took away $24 million in prisoner education funds this calendar year, with the plan to use $24 million in unspent state funds to make it up. Unfortunately, MDOC officials confirm the unspent state funds account only had about $14 million, forcing the MDOC to cut $10 million while working with state legislators for a way to make up the difference.
Today, we ask you to help. Please contact your legislators and request they fully fund prisoner education without accounting gimmicks or fund shifts, since these programs are among the most effective ways to reduce recidivism, the prison population, and cost of corrections in the long run.
To find your state representative, visit http://house.michigan.gov/. State senators can be found at https://senate.michigan.gov/.
Grateful for guidance
October 31, 2019
Mr. C needed help filling out his commutation, and came to HFP. When he received a new, edited version of his application from HFP's Client Services Specialist Susie Greenbauer, he responded:
"I received the copy of the commutation form on Friday. I'm so thankful for your input and the changes you made. The suggestions you made are valuable and extremely useful... You and HFP staff are valuable and are a blessing to us and especially me. Your support for us and the care you have shown us can not be measured in words, but I want you to know how much you mean to us."
Octrober 29, 2019
A friend of an HFP client writes us:
"I have heard for a few years now that men have seen boxes that say "for institutional use only" (obviously meaning it's really crappy) and even some seeing boxes that have said "not fit for human consumption". The newest one that I heard from men at Coldwater (LCF) is that the state peanut butter jar says "may cause cancer". Someone took the label to the wardens forum and asked them about it. The response was..."it says 'may' cause cancer not 'will' cause cancer." SERIOUSLY?!?!?! It seems as though the situation has gone from ridiculous to dangerous."
Ready for training
October 24, 2019
Mr. R was in a unique situation when he reached out to HFP. He had recently lost a leg, and was worried that would disqualify him from vocational training within the MDOC. HFP contacted MDOC officials, who made sure Mr. R was on their next round of reviews to attend MDOC's Vocational Village. A few weeks later, Mr. R sent us this update:
"good news matt. I have been accepted to CNC vocational. I'll be riding out soon.. thank you so much for your intervention. the work you do and your organization is so appreciated. I thought my life was simply forgot about. I still have people who care about my future."
October 22, 2019
Due to Michigan Freedom of Information Act laws, Mr. A can't file a FOIA request. To say the least, he was pretty grateful when HFP submitted one for him last month:
Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.
Did I forget to say, "thank you"?
I am really grateful that you've gone above and beyond for me. I won't forget it.
Let the music play!
October 15, 2019
Mr. J has been playing piano his whole life. He's 68, and has served over 40 years of a non-parolable life sentence in the MDOC. His keyboard is his lifeblood. So when he moved to a new facility, one that did not allow keyboards (it's up to the warden at each facility), he contacted HFP. We reached out to the warden with a plea to change this policy. It took almost 3 months, but Mr. J finally gave us a good update:
"Hello Matt, aside from an obvious blessing from God, I'd also like to think that "you" played an integral part in the "policy change." The warden has finally approved "keyboards" as acceptable musical instruments; so I just wanted to take the time to personally thank you for all your efforts. We need people and organizations like you. Please continue caring. Thanks again, and God be with you all."
Veterans giving back
October 8, 2019
An HFP client updates us on the Veterans group activities:
"We are (the V.V.A.) making Christmas stockings with wooden toys ( cars, boats, trucks and airplanes ) that we are making and I've got my crochet class making the Christmas stockings I also have some of my guys making necklaces and bracelets for the girls then we will fill the stockings up with candy and cookies what we don't have is someone that would like to receive them. In the past we had a kindergarten class that we donate to here in Jackson but that school has been closed would you find me a group or an organization that could find a good home for them please ask them how many they would like and how many need to be boy stockings an how many need to be girl ones."
If you have any ideas on where this group can give, please contact the HFP office (email@example.com).
A commentary on prison cuisine
October 3, 2019
A client shares his thoughts on the food served in prison:
"Garbage food comes to us from vendors that sell the cheapest and worst they got to the State! So how do we expect our health to get any better when the quality of food is so poor in the proper nutrients to sustain a body? Michigan's choice of a diet for prisoners is the worst in the nation, and for prisoners with life and long indeterminate sentences, their fate in prison is a death sentence! Whoever modeled this system done so in an effort to have it replace the death penalty after it was abolished in the early 1900's and replaced with a form of mercy killings."
New hit series?
September 26, 2019
Mr. H, a long-time HFP client, has a idea for a new TV series:
"'Live C.O. Television.' Just like the program on A&E--'Live P.D.' Corrections in America should be televised round the clock, as we move toward rehabilitative institutions. This will show both where we are, and why we are going in a better direction. And, foreign countries with this working already (rehabilitative corrections) would be invited on the T.V. program with their own body cameras to show American taxpayers the difference, and why to fix a broken system. What better place to lead innovative prison and jail reform than right here in Michigan."
The shoe fits!
September 25, 2019
Ms. C had been waiting since May for a custom pair of shoes to help with some foot issues she's been having. Finally, after months of waiting with no action, she asked if HFP could help. We reached out to the facility, and days later this reply arrived from Mrs. C:
"Hi, well you did it again. I got the shoes but only with your help."
A description of MDOC health care
September 24, 2019
A client shares his point of view on MDOC health care:
"Health care at this facility waits until a prisoner is literally on the brink of death before they want to send them out to a hospital. Then, too, there is a level of incompetence at times that gets the ball dropped. And then it’s too late, a person be dead! The trend now in our system of health care seems to suggest that if you're getting old, there is no NEED to waste money on you."
An important re-connection
September 19, 2019
Ms. N has been waiting. Her late father paid for legal help back in 2011, and the brief still hadn't been filed! She reached out to HFP, who went to bat for her and contacted the attorney. Days later, this message arrived:
"Matt, yesterday at 2:45 I spoke to (my attorney)..he told me he and his wife are working on my brief..it should be ready to file in a week. Thank you for your care..I appreciate you."
On treating those with special needs
September 18, 2019
Mr. J was on suicide watch in Brooks CF. His wife describes the ordeal:
"My husband said that being in seg was torture. They left him handcuffed in a shower for two hours when they took him down to seg because there was no one to monitor him. They then stripped him, he was given no clothes, only a canvas sheet. He said that he didn't sleep at all. He called to tell me that a CO on second shift was giving him a hard time and saying things like: 'He is playing games because if he was going to kill himself he would have done it.'"
HFP Blog: "Kindness is gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us." ~ Henri-Frederic Amiel. See today’s entry HERE.
September 17, 2019
Mr. G had a recent visit to Duane Waters Health Center. When he arrived, the nurse struggled with both of his arms to find a vein for an IV. After trying unsuccessfully, the nurse called for help:
"A small amount of blood was transferred form my skin on both arms to her gloves. When she decided to have someone else connect my IV, she went to the next inmate to begin hooking up his IV. She used the same gloves on the next inmate."
New client likes what he sees!
A new client to HFP writes:
"Thanks for such a prompt rely. I heard nothing but good things about Humanity For Prisoners. Now i see why! It's truly a blessing to have someone taking my case serious for a change. This is a wonderful service your organization is providing for the less fortunate."
HFP Blog: Doug is still talking about the two Lester Holt TV specials over the weekend, and says it’s time to get our hands out of our pockets! Read more HERE.
Paying tribute to a fallen comrade
September 10, 2019
At a recent performance of Shakespeare Behind Bars in Brooks CF, actor James O’Neal presented this eulogy:
"Mr. L., Fallen, But Not Forgotten Big ‘L’ I call you because when I watched you strut and fret your hour around the yard on your daily strolls, it gave me a pleasure to pass pleasantries with you; the gentleness in your voice was apart from the norm, a difference that made my days unique in the sense that brought me a joy and pleasure to be alive, especially when you speak of the difficulty with your memorization with Claudius' lines and Willis throwing the role on you. We chuckled, but when rehearsal time comes, your eloquence brighten yonder stars as you recite Claudius with a tenacious nature that give life to Claudius’ character. I felt proud and at the same time, your indomitable spirit feed the pertinacious character of my own will to learn my lines; I will always remember you, my thespian brother, as your spirit dwells along the route you made. Strutting and fretting your hour distinguished you from the whole with your proud head up, and your cane having a life of its own. We will miss your presence, but your spirit will always live on with us.”
Dirty Duane Waters Health Center
September 5, 2019
A client who had a recent stay at Duane Waters Health Center, the MDOC's main medical facility, writes this to HFP:
"I looked at the top sheet I was to lie on, and it showed several large stains (coffee can size). I assumed the sheet had been washed, but it was still awful to look at. As I stood there, I glanced in the corner of the room. There was a pile of dust and dirt that appeared to have blown there by passing traffic. The room had not been swept in some time. Next to the bed was an IV pole. My eyes followed the pole down to the pole's four feet. The feet of the pole appeared to have been covered with baby powder. It had not been wiped off in a long time."
Clean Water Needed!
September 3, 2019
HFP client Mr. D uses a CPAP machine at night to ensure proper breathing. The device requires distilled water to make sure that no bacteria is passed on to the wearer, causing risk for infection. Mr. D informed HFP that he was without the needed distilled water for 3 days, making him choose between not using his machine or using water from the sink. HFP contacted the facility, and got this reply the next business day:
"The issue regarding the distilled water has been rectified. Custody staff that work in health care and Mr. D have formulated a plan to have him placed on call out every third Thursday to go to health care to get his water for the CPAP machine."
HFP Blog: Sometimes a kind word is all we can offer a prisoner. Some thoughts from Doug on the importance of soft words HERE.
August 30, 2019
A client shared this with HFP:
We were discussing Fixed-mindset verses Growth-mindset on Friday in Academic Transition class. This was a handout from our Professor, an eighth grade girl wrote this. I thought you would like to post it, and share it with others:
Today was the absolute worst day ever
And don't try and convince me that
There's something good in every day
Because, when you take a closer look,
This world is a pretty evil place.
Some goodness does shine through once in a while
Satisfaction and happiness don't last.
And it's not true that
It's all in the mind and heart
True happiness can be obtained
Only if one's surroundings are good
It's not true that good exists
I'm sure you can agree that
It's all beyond my control
And you'll never in a million years hear me say that
Today was a good day
Now read it from bottom to top!
Native Americans doing good things at Lakeland CF
August 28, 2019
A Native American client writes to HFP:
"I’ve been working on a DAY OF PEACE AND UNITY sponsored by the Native Americans Traditional Ways Group. We are requesting to have one speaker from each religious group at the Lakeland facility speak on what peace means to them. We have asked the warden to speak and talk about how positive behavior and involvement in positive programs at the facility would generate positive effects in our lives. We are doing this to show compassion and prayers towards the victims and families of the mass killings and senseless shootings as of late. We want to show that even as prisoners we are human and have a sense of humanity towards all our relatives and members of society. I am told that a pastor has taken my letter to the warden and used it as a format and sent letters out to 400 prison chaplains across the US. I am proud to have spurned this day of non-violence and peace, September 21st. -Your friend John"
August 23, 2019
A quick profile of HFP assistance last week:
Tuesday AM: Mother of terminally ill client calls HFP, can't get a call back, doesn't know if he's OK or even where he is.
Tuesday PM: HFP makes contact with the MDOC regarding the situation.
Wednesday AM: The warden replies to HFP: "Just wanted to let you know that we did make contact"
Thanks to your support, HFP is able to get results like these on a daily basis!
August 22, 2019
A client shares good news with HFP:
"I got my parole this morning! Once again I want to thank you and your organization from the bottom of my heart. There is no doubt in my mind that your assistance was instrumental in my preparations for my last hearing. You can count on my ongoing support of your organization in the future Matt. God bless and thank you!!"
Patient concerned about others
August 21, 2019
Reflections of a surgery patient at WHV, the Michigan women’s prison:
"I’m still here in the infirmary and it’s not a very kindly or clean place. There are a couple of gals here who will never leave this area. I hate to leave them behind, but will write them often to let them know they’ll never be forgotten. We lost a woman here 3 days ago. She took her oxygen off during the night, and left us by morning. There was no hope left in her. I’m so grateful for the joy our Lord fills me with, so that I may be able to bring a ray of sunshine for those around me."
Grateful for a response
August 20, 2019
A client writes HFP:
"Humanity for Prisoners and you are the only ones who are stepping up for us inmates. I write other places who get paid to help, and they spin us. Thank you for your efforts"
Ideas for parole reform
August 15, 2019
HFP friend Ricardo Ferrell, who has been behind bars for 38 years and is eligible for parole, is pleading for parole reform. Says Ricardo:
"The Parole Board is dispensing the equivalence of a death sentence upon lifers by continuously and arbitrarily denying us an opportunity for a meaningful chance at being released. In some instances we’re made to serve 35, 40, 45, 50 + years before eventually releasing us on a four year parole. This, in essence, is a form of incarceration because any violation, irrespective of how minor, means the parolee will be returned to prison for another 12, 18 or 24 months. That person could face the likelihood of never again being paroled. Ricardo goes on to say, These lifers often are the best candidates to grant parole, as they seem to successfully complete the 4-year paroles without committing new offenses. Since 2009, some 400 parolable lifers have been granted paroles, and none have reoffended with the same crime. And, this particular group is less than 1% of the recidivism rate. Hundreds of us parolable lifers have served 3, 4, & 5 decades and have become the elderly population, who's propensity towards violence and crime are long behind us. I speak for every parolable lifer: We want a second chance!"
Another grateful inmate
August 13, 2019
A client writes HFP not asking for anything, but just to say this:
"I'm so proud of you and your organization. Tell your staff that the good work that they are doing is giving hope and courage to us who are daily dining on misery, abandonment, regret, and hopelessness. Thank you all for being a light in the darkness."
Blessings on HFP!
August 8, 2019
After HFP wrote a letter of support to the Parole Board, a client writes back:
"Thank you so much for the quick response and the perfectly worded draft letter to the board. Again, I pray that God continues to bless you and your organization for the dedicated assistance you so generously provide to us who have nowhere else to turn for help. Your dedication is very much appreciated by not only myself, but the many others you provide assistance to. May God continue to bless you and yours."
Lots of ants, but no air!
August 1, 2019
Mr. S, Level V prisoner at Baraga Correctional Facility, was just released from solitary confinement for health reasons. He writes:
"They moved me to a cell contaminated with bio, infested with ants, and no air circulation. I’m tired of waking up in a bed full of ants chewing on me! The doors are altered to block illegal messages, but this also blocks all air."