Female staff overworked at WHV
June 21, 2018
A client at Michigan's prison for women writes HFP:
"This week, in a 72-hour period, I saw the same officer on duty 51 hours! Think about it. For three days she has only 18 hours at home---divided into three 6-hour periods---to spend with her kids, her spouse, as well as sleep and eat!
"Today the female staff were forced to stay here, no matter how many hours they had already worked.
"Today an officer is on sick leave, but Is forced to stay here.
We’re understaffed! Having officers watch this many prisoners with little or no sleep is not only unhealthy, but dangerous! I want to speak up for the female staff. They need help. Helping them will help us! They should not be forced to work to death."
Where marriage becomes difficult
June 20, 2018
A client shares his challenges with HFP:
"Right now I’m in the process of losing my family because of time. My wife has informed me that she can't do this any longer, that it has taken a toll on her and 9 yrs of us being together is over. I understand what she is going through and I understand her decision and I can't be mad at her because she has made me a better person. "
June 19, 2018
A client working on his court case writes HFP:
"I now have the transcripts, and know I was thrown head first under the bus. If my court appointed attorney was not working for the Prosecution, if he was not living in his car, was not going through a divorce, did not file for bankruptcy, maybe he would have done the job of public defender. What if anything can I do?"
Man's best friend
A client training dogs writes HFP:
"Lesson of the day: Do NOT have a yellow Labrador on my lap while wearing navy blue pants when he's shedding. Comb puppy first, sweep floor, then have dog perform "lap" commands. I looked like a Yeti walking to breakfast in my prison blues! Love fur babies, but wow can they be high maintenance."
HFP Blog: HFP’s contention - the Assistant Attorney General’s recommendations in Parole Board Public Hearings are worth less! See today’s entryHERE.
Kind words from a just-released inmate
June 13, 2018
A client granted parole writes HFP:
"I am looking forward to the future, but I cannot discount the way that I have been able to make it through my past. Humanity for Prisoners has played a major role in keeping my spirits lifted, my mind focused on the important goals and priorities, and encouraged me to pursue changes that would make a difference in the lives of others."
Brooks Facility Cuisine
June 12, 2018
A client's wife writes:
"My husband explained to me that they had been served a lunch that was inedible. Lunch consisted of two frozen slices of bread, beans that were raw, a piece of pastrami and four pieces of slimy potatoes. This delicious meal was topped off with a tiny piece of cake, so to say that I am disgusted with the MDOC is an understatement, because they are responsible for feeding the incarcerated, yet they could not care less what these grown men are being fed. I would like to ask the suits at the MDOC to please come and have a meal at EC Brooks or any other prison in Michigan, and then tell me and all the loved ones, that these meals are adequate for human beings!!!!"
Another client thanks HFP
June 8, 2018
A client of HFP shares his thoughts:
"HFP truly deserves to be recognized, appreciated, and commended for how they've given of themselves in such a selfless fashion. Let us all take notice to the example shown by HFP because they are showing by way of their mission what's needed to make a change in our prisons and society. I would like to extend special thanks and acknowledgements to all the fine staff at Humanity for Prisoners: Doug Tjapkes; Matt Tjapkes; Board of Directors; Sponsors; Members; Volunteers; Contributors; and to everyone who supports this purpose-driven nonprofit organization."
Thoughts from an old-timer
June 7, 2018
An older client of HFP shares some thoughts:
"Year after year and decade after decade I sit by and watch as my cruel captors callously strip away not only my basic dignity, at times, but what few rights and privileges we the imprisoned have left; all in the name of safety and security---sometimes simply for spite.
"In general, prison personnel have become far more physically aggressive over the last 20 years (with the use of tasers, restraint chairs, and other dehumanizing devices) even causing death to some. Basic human rights violations are common, and largely ignored by prison administrators and even law enforcement. I personally attribute this to what has been termed a "Guilt" type mentality. By this I mean that I do not generally view prison administrators' impetus to cover up violations of prisoners' constitutional rights, as a duty they owe to fellow employees but rather to a general perception that admitting the violations actually occur would lead to public disrespect and distrust for the profession as a whole.
"I have to laugh (to keep from getting angry) at the Michigan Department of Correction's use of mottos such as, "Expecting Excellence Everyday", "We Must do What is Right, Not What is Easy", or the current one, "Committed to Protect, Dedicated to Success". I can't help but wonder if the MDOC's public relations department are all former fiction writers. If there were even a modicum of truth to such mottos I might actually be inspired, but they are simply lip service to please the public."
Why a prisoner supports HFP
June 5, 2018
With your donations being doubled in June, an HFP client shares why he donated:
"Thank you for your letter of appreciation for my donations. I have plans of sending more when I get my state pay. You guys are more than welcome to anything I have. I have longed for someone to express the genuine concern for me as you guys have without even knowing me. The compassion I felt and received from you when I first met you last year in prison remains. I was raised to give and share, as well as treat others the way God has treated me with love. God Bless all of you!"
Man's best friend
May 31, 2018
Some Michigan prisoners have the pleasure of participating in a dog training program. It’s a great experience, until one must part ways with the pet. Inmate Douglas shares his feelings as he and Sully spend their last day together:
"All of the handlers have spent the day spoiling their dogs. The weather was just incredibly perfect for walks, games, and just lying in the grass with them. Sully beat me two out of three wrestling matches, then we took a nap. Oh, how I hope to not make a fool of myself tomorrow when Sully leaves. However, I doubt I'll be alone as every dog has at least one handler who loves them more than ice cream on a visit. ;)"
HFP Blog: Not a pleasant day for us when a prisoner dies. Read the latest entry HERE.
The things a prisoner misses
May 29, 2018
A client shares with HFP:
"I get a good laugh from the staff here when they come in my cell. Where a lot of men have pornography on their bulletin boards I have a huge picture of a hamburger with everything. I miss the little things in life. I used to raise chow chows which is a beautiful dog breed and miss them. If you could find a picture or two of some chow puppies I would appreciate it, they are adorable fur balls. I miss stuff like seeing the lake or the sound of a cat purring. I know that sounds strange but after a while of deprivation I really miss them. Another thing is just simply silence. That doesn't happen here. I look forward to going for a walk in the woods. I was and still am just a country boy."
What years in prison does to a person
May 25, 2018
A client shares his thoughts with HFP:
"I guess I am just basically lost and just need a bit of humanity in my life. The darkness of this place will slowly kill a person as surely as any cancer but it does it through the mind. It will slowly strip away happiness, then humanity until there is nothing left but the shell of an animal that the public has been led to believe we are. I know that is a bleak outlook but it is an honest one. We fight to retain our humanness but as months turn to years and years to decades we slowly are worn down and give in to the darkness that consumes everyone in here eventually."
Still Chilly in Coldwater
May 24, 2018
From a prisoner at the Lakeland Correctional Facility:
"We are still COLD at night. Been having to sleep FULLY DRESSED with thermal underwear, to boot!"
May 16, 2018
Even though Spring has finally arrived, the nights are still cold. One inmate's wife sends HFP this update:
"My husband tells me they turned off the heat already this year, not even the date they usually do. The inmates have been freezing on their metal slab beds with only an inch of lumpy mattress between them and the metal, and one blanket. How does that help someone feel positive about reentering society? It engenders feelings of anger born of pain from abuse, and neglect, and abandonment. When inmates become desperate and angry enough to strike back, they are labeled animals. No one delves into the reason for their desperation...hunger, cold, ignored illness, belittlement, and being treated like vermin. Who are the real animals? How can inmates rejoin the world when the world turned blind eyes, deaf ears, and slammed doors to them?"
HFP Blog: Might the “least of these” even include transgender inmates? See today’s entry HERE.
On when it's finally time for treatment
May 15, 2018
A client with foot issues writes HFP:
"I'm limited due to plantar fasciitis now in my right foot and all the walking is so painful. They refuse to send us to podiatrists until our feet are deformed, the health care manager told me???"
May 11, 2018
The HFP team has helped nearly 200 Michigan prisoners in filing applications for commutation of sentence, and this inmate speaks for many:
"What you're doing is extremely beneficial to the men who no longer have their freedom nor support coming from the other side of the fence. Some no longer have families, friends, or people on the outside who can do for them. In closing, I would simply like to say, Thank You"
May 10, 2018
Two siblings of a mentally and physically challenged woman in the Huron Valley infirmary have had various problems trying to visit their sister in the past. This time, they asked HFP to assist in advance. We recently received this nice note:
:"We visited our sister on Friday, the visit went well. We got in to see her quickly and she was in the room waiting for us when we got back into the visitation room. She looked good, well cared for and seemly pretty happy. We did see signs of dementia and confusion. Thanks again for helping us see her again!"
Letter from Doug
May 8, 2018
HFP President Doug Tjapkes recently sent this letter to prisoner serving life without parole:
"Dear Larry, I don’t know what HFP did to merit such a generous gift from you. But I can tell you this, our hearts swelled with pride today when we opened the envelope and found your gift! We received a $30 check...another example of the widow’s mite."
Enjoying fresh fruits and veggies!
May 4, 2018
"We had volunteer appreciation dinner this past week. Well because I worked it I was able to eat there as well. I have been in this prison going on six years. My body has been deprived of fresh fruit and vegetables for that long. At this meal there were platters and platters full of the most beautifully colorful fruits and vegetables. Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green peppers, watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, strawberries, and pineapples.
"In order to understand you would have to imagine a world where the above never existed, where you only see canned vegetables that are so overcooked they are a brownish color with no vitamins left in them, where the only fresh fruit you see are apples that have absolutely no flavor, and resemble what hunters use for deer feed. When my body consumed these colorful wonders it began singing. I looked up to the heavens , closed my eyes and thanked God for filling my mind, body, and soul with those wonderfully colorful, God made vitamins. There is so much in life that we take for granted. The next time you walk through the produce department at the grocery store, remember the hundreds of thousands of human beings who long to just taste fresh vegetables and fruit. Then take a bite for them!"
A prisoner's thoughts on HFP
May 3, 2018
A client of HFP writes:
"The humanity which pours from this wonderful group of people is remarkable and demonstrates what it means to serve others by focusing more on the mission and not so much on the reward. The folks over at HFP are cheerful givers - extending themselves to help others and not looking for anything in return. They are the epitome on how the Law of Giving should be applied."
Some just don't get it
April 20, 2018
A client of HFP tries working with other inmates:
"Take Nico, for example. He was recently released from level-IV, got mixed in with one of the gangs, and is angry that the board has flopped him twice. His mom died from cancer last week and as I began to put my hand on his shoulder to comfort him, he said, "Now I've got no one to send me money." I didn't bother offering words of sympathy. I mean, your mom's not even in the ground and your only thought--voiced in an upset tone-is money? Selfish bugger caught me off guard sufficiently that I rudely interrupted his request for me to loan him some food to say he needed to get his priorities straight. A year's previous efforts at "schooling" this kid seem wasted. Sad, but at least I tried. He is risen, and that gives me the courage and faith to try to aid others in my own small way."
A prisoner likes HFP
April 17, 2018
A prisoner shares his thoughts of HFP:
"You can liken HFP's mission to that of the story of those on the right and the left, in that, Jesus speaks about being hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, and in prison. Those on the right tended to His needs while yet those on the left vicariously neglected Him. There is a comparison of these stories equating the humanitarian mission of those who are a part of this magnificent organization. Your work will always be cherished and remembered. Thanks to everyone at HFP: the Board of Directors, Members, Contributors, Supporters, and last but not least the thoughtful volunteers."
April 12, 2018
A client writes HFP:
"The JPay kiosks are either turned off most days or have been "out of service." I am surprised the phones are even operating. Do you think it is a coincidence, given that recently introduced legislation is looking to advance further reforms within MDOC? That could mean the "free ride" is coming to an end for a lot of state employees. Many of them here behave like petulant children, perhaps spoiled by years of entitlement-thinking and classic get-something-for-nothing-at-taxpayers' expense mentality. Could they be mounting a coordinated resistance? It sure feels that way! It is now time for real change, which is long overdue."
Behind Bars - Crappy decision at Saginaw CF
April 11, 2018
An inmate with Crohn's Disease writes HFP:
"I have (due to a long fight that I won) a permanent "special accommodation" for: CONTINUOUS ACCESS TO TOILET, and 5 ROLLS OF TOILET PAPER PER WEEK. But now, I’m at a new facility, Saginaw CF, and the reason I'm contacting you is because the Physician’s Assistant today took away my "special accommodation"?!? What the…? I explained to him that EVEN out in the world Crohn’s patients get a medical card that gives them the Federally protected right to not be turned down to use the bathroom at a public place that only has an employee restroom. He knows I go 5 to 7 times a day on a bad day, and 4 to 6 on good days, ever since my hemi-colectomy surgery to remove 2 feet of intestine. Help!"
Prison food, from bad to worse
April 10, 2018
A hungry client writes HFP:
"By the time you receive his message, it would be two days since I or we have eaten a hot meal!!! There is no problem with any equipment or something to that effect ... they just had a big ride out and rode a lot of kitchen workers, and those that are left refuse to allow them to work them to death! The meat they are slicing is paper thin and you could see through it! The kitchen staff is punishing us on the strength of other prisoners refusing to be over worked! Plus the meals that they were preparing that was suppose to have been hot was garbage ... I mean so over cooked and burnt, until we didn't eat it for the most part! since Trinity is leaving in a few months, they are really dogging us!"
WHV: No place to have cancer!
April 6, 2018
A client at Michigan's prison for women writes:
"I had surgery in November, and they said that the tumor came back, that I had type 2a cancer, and I was then referred to oncology for a treatment plan. The oncologist asked for them to send me out to have more testing, saying that the treatment plan would be more effective once the results are in. Then, healthcare cancelled all my appointments to see the oncologist and tried to do things here at the prison without my cancer team. There is some games being played and I'm the one at risk."
Why a prisoner donated to HFP
April 5, 2018
A client sends this note with his donation:
"The $20.00 that I sent is nothing compared to what you've done for so many of us who are incarcerated. So many guys are forgotten from society, and in some cases their own family! So to have someone to speak and fight on our behalf, like you did for Bear, is humbling and a true blessing. In the 40 years I've been incarcerated we have never had anyone in our corner and genuinely wanting to help us without putting their hand out."
Kind words from WHV
April 3, 2018
From Michigan’s only prison for women:
"Thank you so much for your efforts. We all love and adore you all at HFP. God Bless!"
A prisoner likes HFP!
March 30, 2018
A client sends his thanks to HFP:
"Your organization came into my life when all hope was gone and I was ready to give up completely. I thank you from the bottom. of my heart for the work you people are doing. I firmly believe you are saving lives. You have helped me."
On spreading kindness
March 28, 2018
In this season of Lent, please be inspired by our friend Doug, who has every reason to be angry. We know of no inmate more deserving of a parole, and yet the system continues to deny freedom. He shares this story:
"My buddy Grizz asked how I could stay so positive after all the time I've served. He said he was asking because he's done a third of my time yet is already bitter and angry. I've gotten this query more here than in the last ten years combined. This place is a "real" prison compared to the kiddie coddle at my last assignment, so often the attitudes are quite depressed. What I said to Grizzy is that the attitude is a daily choice, made before I swing my feet out of bed. It isn't that I don't feel the allure of despair and resentment, it is just that I refuse to drown in this muddy puddle I tossed myself into. I told him if he can find just one person a day to help, it will not simply give him a purpose, but will help improve his own attitude. He has taken it to heart as I've seen him go out of his way to be polite, clean, or give something to one of the indigents."
Dropping the ball
March 23, 2018
A grieving client writes HFP::
"Just over the weekend I overheard a prisoner complain to the officer that he just got off the phone with his family, who just informed him of the burial of his sister. They said that they called up the facility to notify him, the prisoner, that his sister had died, and to call home. The officer just said, 'Somebody dropped that ball on that one.'"
Unclean showers at Oaks CF
March 22, 2018
A client from Oaks Correctional Facility in Manistee writes HFP::
"The showers are still not being cleaned. Now, even worse, one of the showers is plugged, so while you shower you are standing in a puddle of nasty, dirty water. It kind of defeats the purpose of taking a shower."
A Good Samaritan
March 21, 2018
A client reflects on the work of HFP:
"Humanity for Prisoners dedicates majority of its time, efforts and resources to help those who most of society deem to be marginalized, the cast-away if you will. HFP can be equated to the story of the Good Samaritan which is indicative as to how they view those of us on the inside. While many in society are turning their backs on incarcerated individuals by walking past them, HFP ,on the other hand, faces the men and women who sit by the road offering them a helping and caring hand to pull them up out of a broken and misguided way of life."
Note from a prisoner
March 20, 2018
A client sends his support to HFP:
"Please be advised I am sending you a donation in the amount of $30.00 to help with stamps and whatever else you might need it for. Thank you for your diligence and hard work in making a difference in this world. In particular, for assisting people who cannot help themselves, and need the type of help HFP Provides."
A prisoner tribute to HFP
March 16, 2018
SHIP: Showing humanity ignites purpose
By Ricardo Ferrell
"What prompts an 81 year old man to dedicate his time and energy may very well be connected to his embedded purpose. The humanity shown by Doug Tjapkes and son Matthew signifies the personification of selflessness. They've given of themselves in the spirit of kindness and have shown a concentrated effort to promote change for those currently incarcerated. Humanity for Prisoners' years of commitment shows an igniting of ones’ purpose to serve. The many Board Members and others who volunteer their time and resources at HFP further shows humanity efforts on behalf of this remarkable organization is paramount, and necessary to bring about a much needed shift in public opinion. The mission of Humanity for Prisoners continues to be inclusive of empowering those who wish to make a difference in Michigan's prison system and the community. Special thanks to: Doug, Matt, HFP members and volunteers for all you do to ignite and inspire humanity for all concerned. Please keep striving to fulfill your purpose."
On cuisine: Screwed up!
March 15, 2018
A client writes HFP:
"I have a friend that I told you guys might be able to help him. The other day during lunch in the chow hall he swallowed a screw that was in his sloppy joe. He was then sent to health care & still keep trying to receive health care assistance, but keep being denied. The screw was no ordinary screw like a flathead, phillips or security screw. It was one that comes out of the utensils used in the chow hall used for serving. He feels as though the evidence (the screw) is going to come up missing & he would like assistance in this process."
March 8, 2018
A client shares a thought with HFP:
"I love the way the MDOC set this “high standard” for how we should conduct ourselves, but the staff engage in conduct unbecoming of an employee daily. I still remain professional, and I’m the inmate, the rejected and despised by society."
HFP helping inmates!
March 7, 2018
A new client writes HFP:
"I had gotten a couple good reports from the men in my unit about how the crew at HFP has helped them. One guy told me how HFP helped him to get the address of some of his family members who had hadn’t had contact with in 15 years or more! He was excited about the possibility of renewing some lost relationships. I was excited that there are people like you who are so filled with the love of Christ that you do what you do. Thank you!"
HFP Blog: A Lenten gift - the story of a prisoner who was at the right place at the right time. Read HERE.
Prisoner speaks at funeral service
March 6, 2018
A grieving client writes HFP:
"I lost my favorite aunt Gloria whose funeral is today. I will be hopefully speaking at the service myself by having the microphone placed right above the speaker phone when I call at a certain time. If not, we'll have someone else to read my words I wrote about my auntie and how she affected so many lives in such a positive way."
The tithe of a prisoner
March 2, 2018
Note attached to a $10 check to HFP:
"Enclosed you should find a small tithe to help. I’m sorry that it’s not more, but at the moment I’m on a limited budget. I believe in what you are doing with/through HFP, so I will continue to support your ministry as best and as often as I can. I pray this small seed will multiply, that the good work that God has created you to do would prosper."
A prisoner called to do what's right!
March 1, 2018
A client shares his thoughts with HFP:
"I often wonder why God chosen me for some of the things I encounter. I discovered a gang members stock pile of weapons (knives), so when nobody was around I turned them into my Unit officer. I have done this several times, and even had metal they were trying to dismantle and fashion into weapons taken from spots so they don't become weapons. Do this make me a snitch? Naw, I don't never say who. I am just tired of the violence and want my surroundings safe enough to breathe a sigh of relief sometime. Coupled with being a trained mediator too, I feel obligated to an extent in keeping the peace between these guys. They respect me enough to listen, so I guess that is an award in itself. "
Prisoners financially support HFP
February 27, 2018
Our office has received two recent demonstrations of prisoner support for the work of HFP. A $25 donation was received from an inmate at Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater. That’s more than his monthly salary! And a $400 contribution was received from the Prisoner Benefit Fund of the Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer! Decisions about how those vending machine and prison store funds are to be distributed are made by the Warden’s Forum, which consists of two inmates and two staff members. What a huge vote of confidence for our work!
Appreciation for HFP
February 23, 2018
A client thanks HFP:
"I couldn’t do any of this without your help. You have helped me more in these last couple of months than my own family has in ten years. They treat me like I am already deceased. I don’t even have an emergency contact to give, and I really didn’t burn bridges. When my mom passed, they passed, too."
On paroling lifers
February 22, 2018
Some thoughts from an inmate/editorial writer:
"Michigan's parole process needs reforming when it comes to parolable lifers. Why continue to cause a burden on the state's budget when it’s a proven fact these groups pose the lowest risk when it comes to reoffending - where less than 2% actually recidivate? According to statistical data between the years of 1900-2003, no parolable lifer has returned to prison for a similar violent crime to which they received the life sentence. Many of these lifers are now in their 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's. Whatever propensity towards violence they may have once had is dramatically diminished due in part their age and other factors shown to keep this particular group in the category of low risk of recidivism, low risk of violence and low risk of failure period."
Written by inmate Ricardo Ferrell
February 21, 2018
A client reports to HFP:
"My whole unit was locked down inside the gym for 4 hours straight because this brother never woke up out his sleep this morning. He was an alright guy. Rumor has it he was a heroin addict and has been using it in here lately. It's just sad that one would lose his life to something so senseless and avoidable. I seen him and his wife on a visit before too. So sad - it puts life back into perspective for me. My prayers are with him and his family."
Talk about a light supper!
February 20, 2018
A hungry client writes HFP:
"They had emergency count at about 2:30 PM today. I guess they had some kind of a drill because we were fed snack bags for dinner. And when I say snack, I mean snack. The scheduled meal would have been 4 ounces of mac and cheese, a serving of beets, a serving of vegetables, a cookie, 2 slices of bread and a beverage. BUT, what we got a 2 oz cup of peanut butter not even half full, a 2 oz cup of jelly, 4 slices of bread, 1 cookie and a half pint of milk. That was supposed to last us until 6:30 the next morning! I has been a long time since I’ve been in elementary school, but I think the lunches we received then had more food than we got for dinner that day!"
Another inmate praises HFP
February 16, 2018
A client takes a moment to thank HFP:
"The work you and your staff do is PRICELESS!!! And not to get all mushy on you, but just to know that someone actually CARES goes a LONG WAY in revitalizing our hearts and uplifting our spirits. Clearly, this is the kind of work that is associated with Jesus who was ALL about making a positive difference! So PLEASE, don't ever feel like the work you do is insignificant or futile, because nothing could be further from the truth!"
Humanity for Prisoners is not a cliché
February 15, 2018
Our client Randal Lefevre shares his story:
My father died on July 31, 2017, and the prison violated policy by refusing to grant me a special visit with my sister who flew into Detroit from North Carolina. My pain was magnified dramatically because I'd been in prison since April 29, 1999, without a visit from anyone.
On August 27, 2017, I e-mailed Humanity For Prisoners and told them my dilemma. On August 28, 2017, Dr Bob, a semi-retired medical doctor/current HFP consultant, e-mailed me back. He said he was devastated to hear my story, and said he'd be to visit me in Oct/Nov. He also started emailing me a daily spiritual devotional.
On November 4, 2017, 1 day after my 46th birthday, Dr Bob came to see me, and I experienced my very first visit in the MDOC. We began and ended our visit with prayer. Conversation flowed freely, and he insisted on feeding me. Dr Bob didn't preach a message of fire and brimstone, instead he demonstrated compassion and love.
I am so thankful to Dr Bob and Humanity For Prisoners. I was hungry, and they fed me. I was thirsty, and they gave me drink. I was a stranger, and they took me in. I was naked, and they clothed me. I was sick, and they visited me. I was in prison, and they came unto me. All praise be to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
Keeping oldtimers in prison
February 14, 2018
Thoughts from a prisoner’s common-sense editorial:
"Elderly prisoners who have served many decades behind bars and are too frail to walk on their own continues to be a financial nightmare due to the enormous cost of their health coverage (although Medicaid now incurs some of the cost for some prisoners). The rising amount of dollars spent on this particular group is staggering and seems to be a terrible waste of taxpayers monies, especially, if the state's own assessment mechanism indicates the prisoner having a low risk of reoffending and no longer posing any danger to public safety. What penological sense does it make to hold even geriatric prisoners who don't have the capacity to bring harm to anyone, not even themselves?"
Written by inmate Ricardo Ferrell
HFP Blog: HFP - an important and integral cog in the prisoner advocacy gearbox: click HERE
Another grateful client
February 13, 2018
A client thanks HFP:
"Thank you again for your ongoing support of all of us in state's custody. I cannot tell you how reassuring it is to have advocates on the outside. Although we are paying our debt to society for whatever wrongs we have done, many of us pay in ways neither appropriate nor lawful to the crime we committed, or to the sentence we were given. In all the ways your ministry is assisting those in prison I thank you and pray for your continued success and blessings."
More complaints about mail policy
February 9, 2018
Another client writes HFP about the MDOC mail policy:
"Three years ago I started receiving a daily devotional from the STILL WATERS MINISTRIES. This devotional played a major role in my conversion to Christ and changed my life. Last night I received a letter from Still Waters Ministries informing me that MDOC contacted them and told them they could no longer send the devotionals to Michigan prisoners due to restrictions on colored ink. Myself and many others are devastated!"
More on the new mail policy
February 8, 2018
A frustrated client writes HFP:
"I was just now given a package rejection for a letter that a jail-house preacher in Ohio wrote to me on a yellow legal pad. Now I cannot even read an uplifting letter from an ordained preacher! Where is this insanity going to end?"
An inmate's thoughts on the mail policy
February 7, 2018
HFP continues to receive daily complaints about the new and highly restrictive mail policy imposed by the Michigan Department of Corrections. This morning we share a state prisoner’s editorial comments, which reflect the feelings of many behind bars.
"Gone are the glitter, sparkles and vibrant colors on those letters and cards that would brighten the grey, black and white dismal surroundings that engulf me. Black and white letters now arrive in plain, white, generic envelopes provided by MDOC, stripped from the sender’s envelopes. For me, the sender’s envelope was as cherished as the contents as it reflected the personality of the sender with those cute stickers, quotes, and the beautiful sweep of the sender’s handwriting. The Parole Board emphasizes the importance of maintaining a strong network of support with family, friends and the community as an integral component in the rehabilitative process, but then MDOC imposes mail restrictions which impede a prisoner’s ability to establish and maintain those relationships.
"Many prisoners participate in Bible study programs via the mail, but because some mailings contain Scripture passages printed in red or other colored ink, those mailings are now being rejected. Even a prisoner’s access to the Word of God is restricted!
"The administrators who created these mail restrictions to thwart the influx of drugs smuggled into this prison are misguided. Drug use still flourishes in this prison because incoming mail was not the primary source for this contraband.
"Correspondence with family/friends/church help keep prisoners grounded and hopeful. It encourages prisoners to do the right thing and stay focused on returning home to those loved ones. Family photos, crayon drawings from the children, and those classic school photos that mark the milestones in their children’s lives were cherished reminders that there was someone at home anxiously awaiting their return, but these mailed items are now banned. Prisoners who feel cut off from the outside world turn instead to unhealthy relationships with other prisoners and as a result, the number of assaults, fights, and misconducts have increased.
"Friends, family members and interested citizens who wish to file comments about this new policy are encouraged to contact their state legislators."
HFP Blog: Think prison is a safe place? Think again! See today’s HFP blog HERE.
A cold night at Oaks CF, Manistee!
February 6, 2018
A chilly client writes HFP:
"Last night about 8 PM the heat went completely out. The staff did not think it was an emergency so maintenance did not start working on it until this morning, despite the fact that temps were below 0. We spent the night with no heat at all. This morning there was an icicle stuck to the inside of my window. Not the outside, but in the cell! So, I’m no longer living in a refrigerator. I am now living in a freezer!"
Women waiting for meds in the cold
February 2, 2018
A client in Michigan's prison for women writes to HFP:
"MDOC staff here are making us stand OUTSIDE in sub-zero temps to get our medications. I waited 15 minutes in the wind 2 days ago to get my meds, the wind chill was 22 below zero.
"Is MDOC ALLOWED to make us stand outside in these temps to receive meds we need? We have a way to receive them inside, they just choose not to use it. Could you please look into this for us?"
A good guy tries to reform a gang-banger!
February 1, 2018
A client focusing on giving back writes to HFP:
"I spent $22 to make twenty bags with little things, like assorted candies, Chick-O-Stick, and an oatmeal creme pie, for the PAWS handlers and alternates. I cut out and decorated name tags that were easily tied to each bag. While lined up on my bed before being passed out, the bright colors caught the eye of one of the older gangbangers who has bragged of having 180 tickets (I've had three with twice the time served), and he wanted to know why I'd do such a thing. As our chat progressed, it was obvious he thought there had to be an angle I was working. I told him what we'd done at my last prison and he was blown away. He admitted to being overly cynical, overly jaded, when it comes to anyone who seems "too nice," but happily a few of my friends were present to confirm the act is really altruistic. It led to a productive talk, and now I know his birthday is tomorrow, so I have gathered items from some of his friends, and with a card, we'll give it to him. Not as satisfying as changing a teenager's self-destructive thought process, but I'll take a victory where I can get it."
Corrections Officer problem?
January 31, 2018
As a veteran inmate at Cotton Correctional Facility sees it:
"A serious problem exists. According to the MDOC employee handbook guards are supposed to set themselves out as examples for offenders. But the examples set by most guards are appalling.
"Prison policy and procedures exist in name only as the guards routinely flout them and hold themselves out as the final authority. Supervisory staff, as a matter of course, turn a blind eye if not actually acquiescing. Seldom, if ever, is a guard held accountable for actions involving an offender; unless those actions also violate the law and then only when those actions become a matter of public knowledge and media scrutiny.
"For all the talk of offender reentry and rehabilitation how can the MDOC expect true success if they are turning out embittered ex-offenders? If the MDOC is not willing to make changes at the very core of the problem (how the guards treat offenders) then they are just talking the talk, and not serious about the walking the walk."
Thank you: HFP would like to extend our thanks to all who visited Porto Bello for dinner last night for HFP's "Charity Night." Our sincere thanks to Porto Bello owners Scott and Nancy Ten Hagen and their staff for making the night possible as well!
HFP Blog: Facing medical issues in prison is a different ball game. See today's entry HERE
A touchy roommate
A client writes to HFP:
"One night I was choking in my sleep, and I woke my bunkey up. He was angry, and I explained it was my fault...told him I suffer from an injury. I got up and sat down so I wouldn’t wake him again. The next thing I knew I was being assaulted...all I remember is waking up on my back, and two officers came in to escort me to the control center. The injuries I suffered were a broken nose, my eye was closed, fracture of the jaw bone and serious bleeding. After going to the hospital I was taken to the eye doctor. That injury still lingers, and my breathing is worse. The guy that hit me is 6’4” and pure muscle, 230 lbs and a weight lifter!"
HFP Blog: How the Dr Larry Nassar story hurts the cause of prisoner advocacy. Read Doug's latest entry HERE
Wheelchair problems at Parnall CF in Jackson
January 25, 2018
A client in Jackson writes to HFP:
"Many of the wheelchairs here are in serious need of repair. Wheelchairs are unable to enter the shower without having to go over a step about 6 inches high. Even the handicapped who are able to walk must step over this. Roadways, sidewalks, and entryways are not being kept up properly---large holes, cracks, missing concrete/asphalt. Snow doesn’t get removed so the handicapped can get through."
Northern Michigan Cuisine
January 23, 2018
A client in a prison in the UP writes to HFP:
"We are having big problems with our food service. For example, this morning we were supposed to have waffles, and instead they sent us plain bread with syrup. Then, just a minute ago for lunch, we were supposed to have burritos. They gave us 4 slices of bread, 2 slices of cheese, 1 pack of jelly and 1 pack of peanut butter. Grievances and kites haven’t helped."
Man's Best Friend
January 19, 2018
A client training dogs writes to HFP:
IT'S A GIRL!!!
As a Leader Dogs For The Blind Puppy Raiser, I'm proud and happy to announce the arrival of FANCY, my Golden Retriever puppy! She is 7 weeks old and weighs only 9 pounds.
When Tammy, the Leader Dogs Trainer was here this afternoon for our monthly 3-hour Training Session, FANCY participated as much as she could. After awhile, though, she fell asleep and slept through to the end. So cute!
FANCY loves me, wags her tail whenever she sees me, and gives me wet, puppy-dog kisses. Oh, and she's ADORABLE!
I'm thankful to God for this new blessing in my life!
The Friend Tree
January 17, 2018
For prisoners, it’s not a “family tree,” it’s a “friend tree!”
by Inmate Joseph Gill:
Some people who call themselves
friend are like LEAVES: They ONLY last
for a season.
Another type of friend is like BRANCHES:
They are not sure how much
they can take. Some branches, weighted
down, will bend and snap off. In other
words, they will break away from you;
from the tree itself.
The final parts are the ROOTS which
go down deep. These are people who
want to see you succeed and achieve the
best in life. They want to help in anyway
they can. They are there to instruct and
guide you. They are people who DO NOT
want recognition. Their desire is to help you get
to where you need to be.
Getting chastised for following policy
January 16, 2018
A client writes to HFP:
"Trusting God, while it is crazy here. I'm in a 6 man cell and 3 of my bunkies have seizures. Yesterday an officer tried to write us tickets for getting them outside the unit when the fire alarm went off, saying we were out of place for not asking. If we don’t do this, every one of these women has seizures before we get them out. We followed regular routines and still get yelled at. No ticket came, but we think the staff must be going thru too much."
No place to be when you pass out
January 11, 2018
A client writes to HFP:
"My neighbor fell out and was unconscious on his floor. The nurse didn't come to check on him, several guards came with a wheelchair, no NURSE at all ever showed up! Its sad that we are at the mercy of people that treat us like they have an axe to grind ... it’s just a few that make the whole look bad."
Prison Doctor's Bedside Manner
January 5, 2018
A client writes to HFP:
"I talked to the prison doctor when I got back from the hospital, and he told me the reason he didn't send me to a urologist was because they had me stable when I was brought up. If I was stable why were my bun and creatinine levels fluctuating. He quickly said I was a ****ing moron and told me to get out of his office"
How productive and positive inmates stay busy
January 4, 2018
A busy client stops to update HFP:
"My schedule hasn’t changed much. I work five days a week, plus assist the chaplain on weekends; music practice on Monday, Tuesday and Friday nights; general library on Wednesday nights; Christian activities/services on Saturdays and Sundays; and law library on Sunday nights. I study my Bible college courses every evening from 5:30-7:00. I like to spend a little time with one of the 12 dogs every week...the PAWS program is still up and running strong."
HFP Blog: We love doing what we’re doing! See today’s entry - http://bit.ly/2CQ9ZRs
Slow mail at WHV
January 3, 2018
The new mail policy of the Michigan Department of Corrections has resulted in a delay of mail received by state prisoners. The situation seems the worst at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility, where we continue to receive reports of mail arriving 4-6 weeks late. Typical is this recent message from an inmate: It is the 10th of December, and I just received a Halloween card!
December 29, 2017
A holiday message from a client:
"Thanks to you and all who contribute to the cause of humanity. You are your organization cannot be thanked enough. You represent what God asks of each of us. Know that all of your efforts by all of you are greatly appreciated!"
Typical holiday greeting
December 26, 2017
From another of our friends in the state prison system:
"JUST A NOTE TO THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU AND YOUR ASSOCIATES DO FOR ALL OF US IN HERE. MAY GOD'S BLESSING BE UPON EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU. YOU’RE THE TOP. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!!"
December 22, 2017
Statistics show that only 12% of Michigan prisoners receive visits! Says Bob:
"WELL I GOT A LITTLE BIT OF BAD NEWS TODAY. MY FAMILY THAT WAS COMING TO VISIT FOR CHRISTMAS ISN'T GOING TO BE ABLE TO MAKE IT. SEEMS THAT THEY GOT SOME SNOW DOWN IN TEXAS . BUT AT LEAST I'LL TALK TO THEM ON THE PHONE."
Holiday Message from a prisoner
December 21, 2017
A recent message to the HFP office:
"Thanks to you and all who contribute to the cause of humanity. You are your organization cannot be thanked enough. You represent what God asks of each of us. Know that all of your efforts by all of you are greatly appreciated!"
HFP Blog: Some thoughts on prison visits, during holidays, or anytime - http://bit.ly/2BeeNyD
Growing and Giving Back
December 19, 2017
A client tells HFP how he's giving back:
"This past season we planted, grew, and harvested, and then donated 9 1/2 tons of fresh produce to the Branch Area Food Pantry! We also work along with other outside organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity. We grow certain flowers for their organization during the winter months. And, we grew pumpkins that were donated to local schools for Halloween. The name of our organization is Grower’s Row, we have elected officers, and we hope to change the public perception of prisoners."
WHV: No place for the handicapped!
December 15, 2017
A client from Michigan's prison for women writes:
"Wheelchairs are a huge issue in our unit. We only have 3 operating, for 186 people in this unit...when at times we have 7-8 handicapped individuals who need to be pushed several times a day. I’m sure the ADA would not be pleased. Would they help?"
Tragedy and Truth
December 14, 2017
The Tragedy of it:
An elderly inmate here asked me to help her as she is unable to hold her bowels through "count time.” She requested a "frequent bathroom detail" but was told the MDOC no longer honors or gives these out. This women has served 23 years, and they merely handed her a box of diapers to use. Think of it. How would you like to sit in crap inside a 60-square-foot room with another person? Inhumane! Will you help?
The reality of it:
Please erase my earlier message. If we complain, they will put that girl on the west side and she is too old to take that chaos. It is gladiator school over there. She will just have to wear the diaper. I am sorry for her, but I can't help her.
HFP Blog: Helping those at the bottom with the “small stuff” - http://bit.ly/2AGHQ1H
Thanks from a veteran
December 13, 2017
A US veteran behind bars thanks HFP’s Executive Director:
"I don't know if anyone has told you lately "Thank You" for being you. For doing everything you do for people, for people that are incarcerated also and for everything and all you had done and are doing to help me! I know not how to repay your kindness. Matt this place I'm in is so very cruel and drains the life, emotions and feelings out of a guy. In combat I had to shut down all emotion all thoughts on feelings. Point is, I'm not used to such kindness and kindness that there isn't any other motive behind, am I making sense?
"So Thank You!"
Man's best friend
December 12, 2017
A client working with dogs writes to HFP:
"We just received 20 new Greyhounds from a racetrack in Montgomery, Ala., so we have our hands full right now. I have Leslie, a timid 60 pounder, but she is a sweetheart. Unfortunately I had to pull at least 40 ticks off her on the first day. Things are going well for me these days and I stay busy."
More mail policy problems
December 8, 2017
As a part of the new MDOC mail policy, inmates no longer receive their envelopes...the contents are removed and delivered to the inmate. Says one woman:
"I receive much mail from people who are writing to me for the first time and I have no way of knowing what their return address is because this place discards our envelopes. I can't respond to their letters. This mail policy is having a detrimental effect on a prisoner's support network...something the Parole Board claims is so important to maintain. It's a very helpless feeling. It is not an unreasonable request to ask for a photocopy of the envelope. Other prisons do that and this place most recently photocopied the envelopes of our legal mail instead of giving us the envelope, so I know it can be done. I wouldn't care if they just tore off the return address and put it in the replacement envelope."
December 6, 2017
When Jimmy met with the Parole Board, HFP was there with him in the absence of a family member. When his Public Hearing was held, HFP was there because he deserved a parole. When the Parole Board denied him his freedom, HFP was there to hold his hand and help him explore alternatives. Says Jimmy: "...at this season of the year, I count my blessings for having you bring a most needed cheer to my heart and soul. Often your generosity causes my eyes to tear up as the pain in my soul becomes cleansed with your merciful acts and deeds. Thanksgiving has been you in my most needed and trying time, may God always bless you with the human kindness to see the need for more people like yourselves in this world with nurturing hearts that have been fortified by the ability to give love to those less fortune in life."
Prisoners like HFP commutations workshop
December 5, 2017
Earlier this fall, Humanity for Prisoners was able to present a workshop inside a prison helping inmates prepare their application for commutation. HFP received a lot of feedback like this:
"Heartfelt appreciation and a mountain of gratitude! You gave participants a vivid and thought-provoking understanding of the commutation process. All in attendance were impressed, inspired and encouraged by the remarks, advice and recommendations you conveyed. Well done! Thank you very much!"