Death notification

September 20, 2017
A client searching for family writes to HFP:
"I just got a letter back from my father,. But the thing is, it came back unopened, with big red letters saying DECEASED. Yeah, it hurt like heck. Well, I’m broken big time."

HFP Blog: Divine intervention? Happens all the time here at HFP. See today's entry: 
http://bit.ly/2fzJZzk

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WHV visits require patience

September 19, 2017
A female client writes HFP:
"Re our visits: Our families are waiting anywhere from one to two hours before they are processed in. I've sat there that long waiting for my family to come in. I ask for shift command and no one comes. They make up excuses why no one comes."

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Not easy for transgender inmate
September 14, 2017

A transgender client writes HFP:
"As for support, I have none because of me being a transgender girl. All my family has disowned me as well as what "friends" I have had. I don't understand it myself because it's 2017."

HFP Blog: Yes, the continued prison health care problems raise our level of anger. See today’s blog:
 http://bit.ly/2f8xDBc

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Another empty bed

September 13, 2017
A grieving client writes:
"At about 4:50 AM my friend John went to the guard and said he thought he was having a heart attack. He then laid down on the floor and the guard called health care, who came and got him. About 5:30 John came back from health care with some Tums and he apparently told his roommate they gave him some sort of shot. By 6:30 AM John had gone into what appears to be cardiac arrest. Guards and health care performed CPR until the ambulance arrived but it was too little too late. John died. He was only in his 30s and was supposed to go home this past July but they moved his parole date to January. John did not do any drugs and worked on the maintenance crew the whole time he was here. But these people here automatically assumed he must have taken something and that he was not actually having a heart attack. So they never sent him to the hospital when he first reported he was having heart trouble. Two State police detectives came in and I hope their investigation reveals the truth. My prayers are with his family. This is a truly horrible place to become ill, and even more so to die!"

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Prisoners care about officers
September 8, 2017

A client at the women's prison writes to HFP:
"I am writing regarding a serious issue with staffing here at WHV. On Thursday, August 24, 2017, I personally witnessed one of our officers being ordered to stay past  sixteen hours. This officer had worked first shift and second shift and at 2230, still had not been relieved of her shift so she could go home. Once her relief arrived, she was relegated to yard duty since there were no available yard officers. I spoke with her the next day and asked how late she'd had to work.  “I worked seventeen hours straight before I was able to get out of here." was her response. Isn't it illegal to work more than sixteen hours at a time? Aren't employers required to give at least eight hours between shifts? I understand the need to work more in cases of emergency but this is a regular occurrence. These officers here at WHV are working sixteen plus hours daily on a regular basis and they are getting burned out. This affects us prisoners because the officers are short tempered, are too tired to properly manage the housing units they are assigned to, and occasionally they are falling asleep on the job. I don't blame them; they are completely exhausted and wiped out. My concern is not only for their safety (driving while exhausted, etc.) but for our safety as well. How well can we be protected when their response time to a crisis is diminished? How can the drug abuse be monitored properly when officers are too tired to care? Please let the public know how bad conditions are here not only for us prisoners but for the corrections staff as well."

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Finally getting out, and no place to go!
A client writes to HFP:
"I am from Flint. However, since my fiance’ passed away last year, I really don’t have a place to parole to. She was the only one I had. My little brother is in prison down south somewhere. My mother hasn’t been in contact with me for years. And my other family have died over the past 15 years that I’ve been  prison. I have no one and nowhere to go."

HFP Blog: Despite all the bad news on your TV, Doug claims love wins. See today’s entry: http://bit.ly/2wK6nPL

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Gift from a kind inmate

September 6, 2017

From a prisoner who sends HFP a $7 check quarterly
"I’m sorry that my donation is not larger. Right now, $7.00 represents approximately 15% of my monthly provision. I support three ministries. I will continue to donate to HFP because the Lord has put it on my heart to do so."

HFP Blog: Some rays of sunshine through the dark autumn clouds. See today’s entry: 
http://bit.ly/2xahQt5

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Giving back to the community

September 5, 2017

A client writes to HFP:
"I facilitated another youth deterrent program session this month. I received some good news that has me feeling good. I deal with the juvenile probation officers from this area. They bring in all of their troubled youth. Well one teen in particular had been to the program a few times. I received the news from his probation officer, that he has a job and he is back in school. She said that it is a direct result of hearing the remorse, empathy and consequences of my story. I feel good because I am able to give back to the community from here."

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No relief in sight!

September 1, 2017

The wife of an inmate writes HFP:
"My husband called me late today, having "just" gotten off of lock down that began at 10 a.m.  That was bad enough, being locked down all day, but some were not allowed to go to the bathroom in all that time.  Apparently the guard in his unit had himself a grand time teasing and making fun of those who were desperate to relieve themselves, adding insult to the cruelty of keeping people from the bathroom for 6-7 hours.  Isn't there policy against that?"

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Words from a grateful inmate

August 31, 2017
A long-time client of HFP reconnects:
"You helped me out significantly long ago, simply because you exercised your humanity by caring for those of us in here. Thoughts have helped me to make it from day to day, and when it seemed the darkness would overwhelm me. Words cannot express our gratitude for your efforts. The number of lives you have affected over the years is awesome."

HFP Blog: HFP: Not just talking about prison healthcare problems - 
http://bit.ly/2wkFq4E

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Where friends watch out for each other!

August 24, 2017
A client of HFP writes to us about a fellow inmate:
"I have another person who really needs some help. I've known Mr. R. for a couple years I guess. He has always been in a wheelchair. Recently I noticed he dropped about 30 pounds. He now has difficulty standing and is falling down quite a bit. Health care is doing virtually nothing. His feet are purple and swollen. He has some sort of vein or artery problems and it is very painful. They have literally told him they cannot and will not do anything, not even for the pain. They keep calling him out, and they give him a very hard time because he doesn't have his shoes on.. his feet are too swollen. And they don't do anything. Most days he is slumped over in his chair, and seems kind of out of it. Please see if you can do anything."

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Thievery doesn't stop in prison
August 22, 2017

A client reports on criminal activity inside the prison:
"Thefts are crazy here. The gangs are running wild and the officers stay in there shacks. Then you have the theft out of the kitchen...the officers only shake down the ones they know do not have anything. The meals that are suppose to have meat in them don't, because the cooks steal it and sell it on the yard."
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Assaults!
August 17, 2017
A friend of HPF, in a recent message to our office:
"Well another interesting weekend 2 guys were stabbed, one went to the hospital the other went to the inmate doctor in his unit. Then another was beaten down. The guy in c-5 was the worst, they had a sub officer on he was in the office on the computer playing some game and guys from the pole barn come and stabbed him. The CO's say they have a hard job. If they would stay off the computers or not sleep in the office things would not be so bad. You only see them on the yard about 15 minutes before they go home."

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Making the best of it
August 10, 2017
A client writes to HFP:
"I just celebrated my 66 birthday on July 5th. Never thought in 1973, at 21 years old, that I would have survived 40-plus years in one of the cruelest creations mankind has been able to devised for itself: the American Prison System. But God has been so good to me during those decades and blessed me in so many ways... most importantly of which enabling me to defeat the environmental influence that surrounds me."

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When oldtimers see the Parole Board
August 9, 2017
There are times when HFP volunteers to attend a Parole Board review with an oldtimer, especially when family and friends fade away:
"I take it that no one from my family has bothered to contact you yet? It sadden me but the truth of the matter is that they don't really know me after all of these years, and the best way I was able to do this bit was have less contact with them as possible, otherwise I would have worried myself to death thinking about them. I had received visits before most of them got old and start raising their own families.I got to figure out how to reconcile with their pain and ask them to forgive me too!"
HFP Blog: For the alleged sex offender, not an easy life before, during and after prison. See today’s blog   http://humanityforprisoners.blogspot.com/

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​No place for the handicapped
August 8, 2017
Note from a prisoner in a wheelchair
"My personal wheelchair has been threatened to be taken away, and I would be left without proper walking assistance devices.  My cell is too small to allow the use of a wheelchair.  The door to my cell is too small for me to enter in the wheelchair...I have to get out of it, collapse it, then leave it in front of the entrance as there is no room for it inside.  The showers, although named “Handicap,” have a 12-14” tall by 6-8” wide barrier, separating the changing area from the actual showers.  I cannot use them without crawling over this wall.  Then there is the med center in the First Aid building.  Their policy is that we must leave our walkers and wheelchairs outside, and hobble or crawl inside for our visits and exams."

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Not much to eat!
August 3, 2017
A hungry client writes to HFP:
"The vending machine situation here is terrible. There are 6 machines in the Visiting Room:  2 pop machines, 1 with sandwiches, and 3 with chips, candy bars, etc. But at EVERY visit, at least 50% are completely empty, have “Out of Order” signs taped to them, or when items are chosen, the machine says, “Make another selection.” Frustrating!"

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Reentry not all that easy or exciting
August 1, 2017
A client who is a sex offender writes about his upcoming parole:
"I'm just not sure how many, or if anyone, would rent to a person admitting they have a sex crime record. I'm happy to be leaving, but not excited. I fear it will be much more difficult and cruel out there. Luckily, I have supportive friends."

HFP Blog: When our friends behind bars hurt, we hurt! See today’s HFP blog:  www.humanityforprisoners.blogspot.com

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Prayer of an 81-year-old prisoner
July 28, 2017
An elderly inmate writes:
"I ask God to keep me strong, and healthy...keep me on the right path, keep my family healthy and in the best of strength, let nothing harm me, and forgive me for all of my sins."

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Difficult place for transgender people
July 27, 2017
A transgender inmate writes HFP:
"I am pushing hard for a transfer to Huron Valley Women’s Facility, or to be treated, as much as possible, like a female housed in a male facility.  If not, perhaps even get my commutation and release, because the MDOC no longer wants to deal with me as a prisoner.  All I know is that the sexual abuse and sexual harassment that I experience by male inmates and alike must end."

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No bus when you need it!
July 26, 2017
A client of HFP with medical issues shares this story:
"I went to the hospital for my chemo treatment...my appointment was at 10:30 AM. I was done at 13:30. The police had to take another prisoner to another hospital for surgery. After they were done, they were supposed to come back and pick me up. They forgot, and left me at the hospital until 10:22 PM.  I arrived back at my facility at 11:37. What a day!"

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Angry over bad spaghetti!
July 25, 2017
A client writes to HFP:
"Just got out of the hole. Spent 2 days there in protective custody. Staff got a reliable verbal report that there was a hit out on me for not fighting hard enough about a spaghetti dinner that was really messed up. I think somebody was just trying to get me out of the way. Off the warden's forum most likely."

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Another day in prison health care
July 18, 2017
No question about it.  When getting medical treatment in prison, you gotta have a sense of humor.  Take Ryan, for instance.  He’s dealing with cancer, and it hasn’t been fun.  The other day, he was informed that he’s due for surgery in a few days:  radical robotic prostatectomy.  Problem is, they removed his prostate in May!  Meanwhile, the staff wasn’t pleased about his resistance, and advised him to take this seriously.  Said Ryan:  “I’ll go in if you demand it, but if they find a prostate in me something is really screwed up!”  The medical staffer told him that was downright rude, and shouldn’t presume to know what the doctors did.  But, cooler heads prevailed.  No surgery.  A chagrined nurse apologized and said records will get properly updated.

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​Kind words for HFP
July 14, 2017
"WHAT YOU’RE DOING TO HELP THE GUYS IN HERE IS WONDERFUL! WE'RE NOT GARBAGE IN HERE. WE MATTER IN GOD’S EYES. I STILL HOLD ON TO HAVING A LOVELY, BEAUTIFUL LIFE ONCE I'M RELEASED, THAT'S WHAT I WANT FOR ME. :)"

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Unclean food trays at WHV
July 13, 2017
A note from a client at Michigan's only prison for women:
"I am writing to inform you of the deplorable way Trinity has been allowing their workers to run the WHV kitchen. Recently, food trays were not washed and sanitized properly. the dish-tank was broke down, and the trays were being washed improperly in the pot tank. In addition to that, other trays were only being sprayed off from eaten food and sent out to be reused. I am concerned about my health and the risk of communicable diseases due to the improper sanitation and sterilization of food trays and the cavalier attitude of the Trinity supervisors."

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​A Prisoner Thanks HFP
July 7, 2017
"I am so grateful for all that you do for the entire prison culture.  You help in ways that can’t even be expressed.  Just knowing that there is someone out in the world who will read our letters and have compassion for whatever issue that we may have is amazing!"

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Typical prisoner message
July 6, 2017
A client of HFP provides a typical message the office receives:
"I started a job in the kitchen here last Monday (washing dishes) for 23.5 cent an hour Mon thru Fri 5:45 AM to 11:15 AM. It's not the most lucrative job in the world but at least my days are more structured.  It took me a little while to adjust to this facility but that was mostly because before I got a job I just had a lot of idle time on my hands and that was getting kind of frustrating. I lost an Aunt a few weeks ago but I've been gone from my family for so long that it's hard to even mourn properly. I feel like I don't even know how to."

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Nasty food at Duane Waters!
July 5, 2017
A friend of HFP was transferred from Coldwater to the Duane Waters prison medical clinic for treatment of a staph infection.  He lost weight during his one-week stay.  Here’s his reason:
"The food in Duane Waters is horrible.  I thought the food here in Lakeland was bad, and rest assured it is bad. But the food they gave me in Waters, just looking at some of those dishes they tried to feed me, turned my stomach. So, I surely wasn't going to try and eat it no matter how hungry I was. Rest assured believe me  I was hungry. I ate an apple, or a couple slices of bread, with a lot of ice water and called it a day. Hence the seven pound weight loss."

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Not a nice place to be
June 29, 2017
A well-educated prisoner who speaks four languages and who was planning to attend law school before being wrongly convicted, describes his surroundings this way:
"I believe that if there is a hell, it can never be worse than this.  To know that you are alive but dead to the world.  To know that you can live and see what beauty there is in life, but denied to make a beautiful life.  The horrors of others’ convictions and mental capacities.  It once upon a time reminded me of DANTE’S INFERNO."
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HFP’s Medical Consultant scores a win!
June 28, 2017
Earlier this year, a client's mother reached out to us concerned about her daughter's diabetes. HFP Medical Consultant Dr. Robert Bulten reviewed her charts and advocated for her health care. Late last week, a note arrived to HFP:
"I want to take a minute and Thank You for all of the help you have given us regarding my daughter. After she had a very bad seizure that resulted in injuries she was transported to the hospital emergency room. Shortly after this visit she has been seen by another physician at the prison and her insulin was adjusted she has NOT had a seizure since May 8th. All it took was for someone to listen and adjust her meds accordingly and so many seizures could have been prevented. Thanks again."

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A prisoner's lament re the Parole Board
June 20, 2017
A client writes to HFP:
"I’ve got 41 years served to date.  I’ve been eligible for parole after I served my first 10 years (that was in 1986).  I’ve received six 5-year flops (continuations).  I see the Parole Board again in 2020.  I’m hoping to get my hands on my file to find out what I keep getting these flops.  When I see the Parole Board again I will have served 45 calendar years on a parolable life sentence that I received for a crime committed at the age of 15!"

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Making Plans!
June 16, 2017
A woman at Huron Valley is granted a parole, and her re-entry plans are complete:
"I am very THANKFUL FOR ALL YOUR HELP AND I WILL BE FOREVER INDEBTED TO YOU ALL AT HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS. YOUR TEAM IS OUR FAMILY AND I/ WE APPRECIATE YOU ALL!"

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Mail problems at Huron Valley
June 15, 2017
A report from a client at the women's prison:
"Numerous people are getting mail several weeks to a couple months after postmarks. Even though the issue has been grieved by many the response is always the same. No problems are found. The 17th I received a letter postmarked the 1st. I have met numerous women who've gotten mail months after postmarks. And rejections aren't even being given for reject mail until after we realize that we are missing mail or contents. Inexcusable."

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When prisoners take the initiative!
June 14, 2017
A motivated client writes to HFP:
"Well, it finally happened. This morning, as I scrubbed the walls around the microwave and toaster area, guys offered to help clean. It was the fourth time I've just grabbed a bucket and cleaned, initially to some mockery or perplexed questioning. No longer. So, tomorrow, there are five of us who are going to clean all of the walls, with a couple more offering to haul buckets, or mop behind us. See, sometimes all it takes is a willingness to set an example. Honestly, the walls aren't nearly as dirty as those in the last prison.  But if we have to live here, why be dirty at all?"

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The kudos we love!
June 9, 2017
A client writes to HFP:
"I would just like for you all to know that you are some of my favorite people alive.
"I was sitting up thinking about all of my favorites , and you all manifested onto my finger tips. Please give all there my deepest regards and respects. You should know that I invest a lot of time in the studies of St. Francis and I have very deep interest in the art of reflection . With that being said , the traits that you all possess , the methods in which you apply , the care and concern that you display , can only be a divine love . You all remind me of the Shepherd who left the 99 sheep behind just to go back for the 1 who got lost along the way . The one who got lost still has value in your eyes . You all still do for the " least of these , " and WE all thank you from not only inside the belly of the beast , but also from the bottom of our hearts . I know that you are busy , so I'll end this letter praying for good health , and many days of success . Please take care and take it easy."

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Voice from the past
June 7, 2017
HFP helped an inmate locate and reconnect with a long-lost family member:
"Just wanted to inform you that I got a letter from my daughter today. She was at the address that you provided me with. She finally wrote and I was very happy to get the letter. I just wanted to inform you that I heard from her and thank you for your time and efforts. If there ever is anything I can do for HFP please do not hesitate to ask!"

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HFP has a heart!
June 6, 2017
While our staff was processing dozens of requests to help with commutation applications, medical problems and Parole Board issues, came this personal request from Richard:
"I am writing to ask a favor if at all possible. The girl that I was pretty close to was killed in a hit and run accident.  She was not very computer literate so I have no pictures of her on my JPay.  Can I send you 3 photos of her, and some of our personal memories and hang out spots, then have you put them on the computer and send them back to me on JPay so that I have them on my tablet?"
You bet we can, Richard!  You bet, we can!

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Women in cold water!
June 1, 2017
An update from the women's prison:
"We have been without hot or even lukewarm water for the majority of the past 10 days. Last week the excuse was they were waiting on a part.. now no one has heard why. The ultimate issue is that we should not have to live like this. The hot water faucet is actually giving colder water than the cold faucet. They have, several times, had the hot working. But, it lasts, on average, less than 2 hours. Today it lasted longer but the water was so scalding hot that those who did stay in came out looking like first degree burns. Is there anything anyone can do to help? There have been calls made but lies have been told that it was fixed, not the truth, that it was temporary and short lived."

HFP Blog: Inmates convicted of sex offenses struggle behind bars.  Our thoughts:
http://humanityforprisoners.blogspot.com/

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Problem of the hearing impaired
May 23, 2017
A prisoner with hearing issues writes to HFP:
"The problem I’m having here is that the TTY phones are not compatible for me.  The cord phones won’t work with digital hearing aids, because they don’t have a telephone mode button on them to silence the noise out.  I just received this new digital hearing aid. The old on had a telephone mode button on it, but they don’t make those any more.  The audiologist said my hearing will work ONLY with a cordless phone.  I know that it’s very expensive to update the TTY phones to cordless phones.  For now, with my family, when I call, they listen and I talk.  When it’s important, I may ask a friend to help me understand what they are saying.  I like to hear my family’s voices, especially that of my mother."

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​Problems with Michigan’s controversial Sex Offender Registry, Part 2
May 19, 2017
An HFP client explains the challenges he's facing finding housing:
"The place I'm trying to go to is a family friend.  She is like a sister to me and has been here from day one, even more since my mother and father have passed away.  Now she and her husband are offering me a room to I can get back on my feet, but there is one problem.  There is a child there, and they’re not going to let me go there.  My aunt who also takes care of me lives across the street from a school, which has nothing to do with my case, but I can't go there.  Where are we supposed to go? What are we supposed to do?"
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Problems with Michigan’s controversial Sex Offender Registry
May 18,, 2017
A client of HFP shares the challenges a friend on the sex offender registry is encountering:
"My friend just got his parole and can't go home to his wife and family.  He was going to his and his wife's house...there are no children there.  But the parole officer took it upon his self to look over the households next door to his house and there is a child there which has nothing to do with him or his wife.  He has spent over $2000 to get him a place to come home to.  Now he has to spend more money that he don't have, on top of that he has a few years in flops"

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More on the drug problem at WHV
May 12, 2017
A recent report to HFP on the drug smuggling issue at the women's prison:
"THIS WEEK THEY CAUGHT THREE YOUNG LADIES IN A CELL SHOOTING UP. ONE OF THOSE YOUNG LADIES I HAD BEEN TRYING TO MENTOR, TRYING TO KEEP HER FROM THE HEROIN IN HERE. HOWEVER IT IS COMING IN FASTER THEN WE CAN STOP IT. AND DESPITE WHAT THE ADMINISTRATION WANTS PEOPLE TO THINK IT ISN’T JUST COMING IN ON VISITS. HOWEVER THERE IS A CERTAIN ATTORNEY THAT WAS BEING PAID TO BRING IT IN. THE YOUNG GIRL THAT I WAS MENTORING WAS CAUGHT WITH THE NEEDLE IN HER ARM WITH DOPE IN IT. SHE DIDN’T WANT TO TELL ON THE REAL DOPE DEALER BECAUSE SHE IS AN ADDICT."

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Whistle-blower retaliation!
May 10, 2017
One of HFP’s whistle-blowers in the women’s prison is not appreciated by the top brass.
"If I was an abused woman I would be cowering in a corner, crying.  Between 9:20 AM and 9:50 AM the Warden went off on me calling me names, trying to humiliate me in front of the whole Warden’s Forum.  He said I don’t tell the truth, I am not to be believed, I should be discredited.  I feel like he’s trying to bully and intimidate me, like if he humiliates me I’ll stop fighting for what’s wrong in here.  When we got this warden we were all so happy, like it was going to make a difference.  It has.  It’s worse!  So sad, because we had hope."

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Cancer patients needing help!

May 9, 2017
This week, two kind and caring inmates contacted HFP on behalf of ailing friends:
 "There is a guy here that was told by the doctor today that, because of the condition of his kidney he only had 2 to 20 months to live. Needless to say, he is interested in filing a medical commutation. He was born in Vietnam and speaks/reads no English. I interpret/write a lot of letters for him. I wanted to put him in touch with you to see what you could do for him."
 And
 "I am writing about a friend who is in dire need of your help. He has gum cancer. It is very advanced and in the past 20 days has grown from his gum into his lip and is now the size of a tennis ball on his face. It is truly unbelievable how fast it is growing. The state is dragging their feet, and are blocking what doctors are recommending.  Can you please do something for this fellow who can’t even eat food?  He needs immediate attention."
HFP is consulting with an oncologist on our advisory board and working diligently to help these prisoners find comfort.
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Good food?
May 4, 2017
Fred got transferred from the Thumb CF to Saginaw, and he grumbled about it.  Until he went for breakfast.  We rarely hear words like this!
"Just returned from breakfast. So-o-o full! Choice of cold (bran sticks) or hot (Ralsten) cereal, two slices of bread, apple jelly, butter, milk (white or chocolate), either apple juice or orange juice, and hash browns. That is the regular state menu, but it is how they prepare it here, and the AMOUNT! There was no way I could finish the mound of potatoes with chopped turkey ham. What made them special is they added black pepper, onions, and butter, so there was actually flavor... and it was steaming hot! Seriously, if my friends at Lapeer knew about this they would all try to get an eviction notice and try to get here for the food, if nothing else."

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Can I help?
May 2, 2017
HFP - Even prisoners would like to help!
"Do you all accept donations and if so who would I send one to? You have always been on top of getting me what I've asked for and if I can help out somehow I would like to."

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Unchained Melody
April 28, 2017
A prisoner recently released from solitary confinement writes to HFP:
"It feels great to be out of chains and shackles. Nothing like going outside in the rain, the snow, the wind and the sunshine. Even though we are under these circumstances life is great. Thanks for helping us out. but the mission continues.... it is life."

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More than one way to smuggle drugs in!
April 27, 2017
In the past year, HFP has received reports of a dramatic increase in drug problems at Michigan’s only prison for women.  This week came this disturbing report:
"HER FEMALE ATTORNEY IS BEING PAID TO BRING DRUGS IN ON HER ATTORNEY CLIENT VISITS!   THEY MAY NOT TELL YOU BUT THAT IS WHERE THEY BOUGHT THE DRUGS THEY WERE CAUGHT WITH TODAY."

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An inmate appreciates HFP
April 25, 2017
An inmate who recently discovered HFP's services writes to the office:
"Praise the lord, I feel so much more relieved of stress knowing someone is working with me to receive a fair shake. I am not without merit."

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Prisoner appreciation of HFP help
April 20, 2017
A recent note to Humanity for Prisoners:
"Spring is a time of hope, promise, and rebirth. I have renewed hope that God will rescue me from this imprisonment because of your intervention. I will always be grateful that you set the wheels in motion for a miracle to happen! It takes a band of angels to do God's work. Thank you for being one of those angels."

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Not much to eat!
April 19, 2017
A prisoner updates Humanity for Prisoners on recent problems with food service:
"These past few weeks have been something. Easily 2-3 meals a week are subbed. Sometimes the subs don't match the meal replaced in nutrition values. Portions crazy sometimes. One day, out of 4 oz. sausages, they gave us 1 and 1/2 hot dogs (which menu states the dogs are 2 oz.'s each. So not only shorted a full ounce, no buns...ONE slice of bread! And most weeks, couple / three times weekly they keep running out of items. And I don't mean on the last few people coming into the dining hall - I mean full units. Example: Couple of days ago, with the sloppy Joe we were due tater tots. My unit, E, was 7th (out of 8 units). When my unit got to "chow", NO tater tots. They were short tots for two units (that is 360 people!). How can you wind up that short?"

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HFP’s Commutations Coordinator praised by an inmate! 

Aprili 18, 2017
Holly Honig-Josephson has had an incredibly busy schedule since becoming HFP's new Commutations Coordinator. One prisoner she assisted recently wrote back:
"I received the Application for Commutation today and read over it. It reads easy, and looks very good. I want to thank u from deep in my heart for the time and patience u put into this with me. So I thank u very much and I am grateful to have become acquainted with this organization and hope I'm able to one day meet u all and do some volunteer work for u. I truly believe that I am a good asset to the community and I truly look forward for the opportunity to explore all of the promises the world has to offer and to give back in q meaningful way. So I thank u for assisting me in preparing this petition.  Thank you, Holly!"
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Terminal illness behind bars

April 14, 2017
Bill is 81 years old and has been struggling with health issues lately. He shares this update with HFP:

"I was taken to Jackson/Ford Hospital for biopsies.  What a trip!  I have 3 holes in my sides:  They tested my liver, kidney and lung right side.  One more hole to my right lung through my rib bone.  One hole through my left side rib cage, to my left lung.  Hurts to breathe and cough, having a hard time trying to sleep on either side, backbone sore.  All I can eat is junk food.  They transferred me from my old unit to the hospital here on the compound, in a 5-man room.  My surgeon prescribed medication.  Still haven’t seen it.  This place is out of space, don’t care how you feel, or how much pain one may be in.  They don’t care.  My test did come back positive.  They say I have lung cancer, Stage #4."
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Prisoner Gratitude

April 13, 2017
"In case you ever wonder whether the small things are worth it, I'm telling you that they do: After 27 years in prison, I appreciate your willingness to help. Even if the actual project doesn't go the way I want, I deeply appreciate your assistance. Seriously, thank you for that."
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A mom is reunited with her family
April 12, 2017

For several months, HFP has worked with a female inmate to get her updates on her son. Last week, this message came through:
"Have great news. Our Lord Jesus has restored my family to me. He has found my son and I now have full communication with him.  And, upon release, I can go directly to see my son. Thank you, to each of you, for all your prayers for me and my family through all these trying years.  I have made it and I am going to make all the way. I have become a woman of Faith today. Thanks be to GOD and to you and others who have paved my path of encouragement, prayers, gratitude and Love.  Thank You all twice!"
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The price of music

April 11, 2017
Last week, we shared a message about the new JP5 tablets prisoners are able to purchase. Today, a prisoner notes that even though these items are available, you still need to have money, and prisoners in Michigan haven't seen a wage increase since late 2006:
"Did you see the new promotional here about the JPay 5 tablets for the people to instantly purchase music?  That’s good, but can you get us a prisoner wage increase, since by those standards a person has to work 3 hours to purchase a song."
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A prisoner likes the new JP5 Pad
April 6, 2017

Last month, prisoners in the MDOC were offered a chance to purchase a tablet to use for music, the prison email system and more. One prisoner writes:
"Okay, these tablets are the equivalent of a double shot of thick Turkish coffee. I am so-o-o happy I purchased this device! If this mini tablet can do all of these amazing things I would lose my mind on the latest smart phones.  It is taking me a bit of time getting used to this tiny touch screen keyboard, but it is a small price to pay for being able to sit in the semi-privacy of my room and "chat" with people. The fact an E-stamp is only 20 versus the 53 for a Forever Stamp is also huge factor with me as I go through the 40 allowed envelopes each month plus several E-mail. However, with the 20 minute time limit and distractions on base, this is just so much more user friendly.  After the board kicked me in the teeth I decided buying one of these was a good way of spending the money I'd been saving. It would have been so .such better to be home, but if God has some plan for my life in here, this makes things easier, especially if we get to buy E-books and more games. Yes, games. This came with a memory game that has already eaten up more time than I want to admit to spending."
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Handicapped and hungry

April 5, 2017
From a physically handicapped woman at WHV:
"I did not have any body to take me to lunch yesterday, so I did not eat. We are short on aids right now.  However some of the aids are assigned to people that don’t even go to chow and they don’t have to take me so they don’t. Sometimes I pay someone to take me. Can you please help?"
What happens next? HFP immediately answered the message and continues to work with her and others to make sure she gets her meals.
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A prisoner vents over mail-room tactics

April 4, 2017
A prisoner expresses his frustration to HFP:
"In addition to withholding your recent mailing containing newsletters, another of their latest mail-related ploys is withholding practically every other edition of my newspaper subscription (Detroit Free Press) on the basis of some innocuous little blurb, which truly has absolutely nothing to do with real institutional security. It's become "security-theatre" around this place as some staff try desperately to cling to "do nothing" jobs and an outdated institutional culture that is ever-changing. Funny thing is, they're too stupid to figure out how they aren't stopping anything! For all of the extraordinary efforts to impede us from reading much of this stuff, most content still makes its way in here and we end up reading it anyway. Note that not all of the staff here are necessarily "on board" with the games and other nonsense played by mailroom staff, who really seem to have no other lives beyond that of being "miserable" MDOC employees. They're just frustrated people, that's all. When you stop to think about it, they're the real ones in prison . . . in fact, "prisons" of their own making!"
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Another grateful inmate

March 31, 2017
'I strongly appreciate the work you are doing to help those who are striving to perfect a change and make a difference. Assistance from the outside means a lot. Please, DO NOT underestimate the important role you and HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS play because it is vital."
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On care of mentally ill women

March 30, 2017
Over the last several years, HFP has worked with a number of inmates at Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility who are mentally ill and dealing with unfair treatment. An update recently came to HFP:
"Believe it or not, things have not gotten better here (WHV).  You would think that, after some lawsuits were filed, things would begin to change in here.  Not true.  The mentally ill are still treated poorly.  They are still locked in cells without water and toilets, so they are still using the floor for the bathroom because the staff do not take them when they need to go.  They do this to the women on suicide watch, too.  Nothing has changed."
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Thanks for being there

March 29, 2017
When sex offenders appear before the Parole Board, they often do not have a family member of friend their side.  In a recent situation like that, HFP’s Matt Tjapkes was there.  Said the inmate, in a thank you note to our office:
"Thank you so much for being there today. You planted yourself into my heart. I'm humbled by your kindness and promise to do all I can to spread my best self. You're an inspiration.
"Sorry for being effusive. I'm actually toning down my thoughts on you. Their intensity will lessen, but the impact is done."
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Man's best friend!

March 28, 2017
A prisoner working with dogs writes to HFP:
"I train and handle retired, rescued greyhounds that are brought to our prison from the racetracks of Alabama and Florida.  My job is to socialize, train and make them adaptable for caring families who support the rescue process.  The greyhound I have now is sponsored by a rescue group in Grandville.  Caring for these abused greyhounds has been a rewarding experience and also has helped in my own recovery.  I’ve been doing this for several years."
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High paying jobs in prison

March 23, 2017
An inmate trying to develop some work skills writes:
"I have finally gotten a job (part-time) as a porter in the unit (cleaning the showers on the weekend). I am a little disappointed that after taking the job I am not going to be allowed to take the Custodial Maintenance class. Once I completed the class my pay would have been increased (right now I make 72 cents a day) and I would have had another marketable skill to utilize once I got out there."
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Loneliness and desolation

March 22, 2017
Mark is 32.  He writes:
"I have no family support at all.  I’m on indigent status...that allows me to order $11 in hygiene needs every month.  I have brothers, one sister and my mom that I try to reach out to, but no support.  I have no books, no TV, no personal items as a watch, no personal clothing, no personal shoes."
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A prisoner's observations
March 21, 2017

A prisoner reflects in his surroundings:
"This prison is filled with so much despair and hopelessness that it would pain your heart to witness.  They (prisoners) need positive outlets to express themselves, such as poetry or drama class.  It’s a proven fact that idle minds gravitate toward negativity, which at this place means senseless acts of violence on each other."
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Another grateful inmate

March 17, 2017
A prisoner thanks HFP for assistance:
"I strongly appreciate the work you are doing to help those who are striving to perfect a change and make a difference. Assistance from the outside means a lot. Please, DO NOT underestimate the important role you and HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS play because it is vital."
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A good program gets even bigger and better!

March 16, 2017

HFP was so pleased with reports coming from Earnest C. Brooks CF in Muskegon regarding the new Juvenile Deterrent Program, that we posted a blog about the project on February 27.  Six days later, one of the inmate/mentors wrote:
"YOUR blog already has immense effect.  It has sparked heavy interest. So much so, that we are now inundated with requests for the program. To accommodate the growing volume of demands coming in we are now scheduling two mentoring sessions each month instead of just once a month. In addition, the administrators have decided to recruit 3 more mentors to meet the growing demand. Eventually, we will have 13 mentors instead of the former 10. This program is taking off spectacularly. I see God's hand all throughout the process. He is using all of us in wonderful, meaningful ways. Doug, you have proven to be an instrumental figure in the growth & expansion of this program. Kudos to you dear Brother for doing your humble part in ensuring the success of this fledgling program."
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Can lightning strike twice?
March 15, 2017
Last December, 81 year old Willie wrote this letter to us from his prison cell:
"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."

This week, we heard from Willie again:
"I was due to return to the hospital on February 23 for biopsy tests. Will you believe that the transportation officers left me at the wrong hospital? All day long, from 8:15 to 3:15! I tried to explain to them that I was at the wrong place, but as you know, the police in the system do not listen to prisoners. I asked the police at the hospital to call my facility and find out what hospital I was supposed to visit. The police who left me at the wrong hospital returned, and I asked, 'Why you didn’t check the paper work before you drop me off?' No response. He just looked at me and said, 'Things happen.'"
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Report from a prisoner in Coldwater
March 14, 2017
A prisoner from Lakeland Correctional Facility updates HFP:
"Here is the latest. Since the first of the year we have had 3 overdoses, one died. Now this past weekend we had a rape in one of the units.  The cops are really useless they do nothing to ensure the safety of anybody that is just trying to do their time."

HFP Blog
HFP does its best to stop over-charging prisoners for services.  See the latest entry:  
http://humanityforprisoners.blogspot.com/

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Life at WHV
March 9, 2017
A female prisoner writes to HFP about life at Women's Huron Valley:
"I am doing work now as a volunteer prison observer...sat today with a lady that tried to hang herself yesterday. Trying to make sure they know God loves them and they have a purpose. Please pray. I also had a rebellious troublemaker at Bible study try to hook me up with a sexual assault lawsuit and she keeps trying to bully and intimidate me like a child. Sad, but the officers know and I believe that God will help this lady as soon as she asks Him to. She was throwing my case in my face like an elementary school child. It is sad really."

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Description from a woman at WHV
March 3, 2017
An inmate at Michigan's prison for women reflects on her surroundings:
"Surrounding me is layers of razor wired fences, cement walls and floors, drugs, cursing, cutting, multiple sexual relationships, homemade alcohol, abuse of prescription medication, abuse by authority figures (physical, mental and emotional), rape, disease, rejection, loneliness, isolation, hunger, helplessness, hurt, pain, tears and death, home invaders, murderers, child abusers, prostitutes, shoplifters, drunk drivers, and manipulation.  I could go on and on about the layers in prison.  24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, for a grant total of 5,480 days of my life so far, with 13,870 more days left in my sentence to do in this environment."

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Thanks to HFP
February 28, 2017
A prisoner who has been working with HFP writes the office:
"I want to say “Thank you” from my heart for all the hard work you are doing to help those in dire need.  I cannot adequately describe how helpless one actually feels after his money and resources are tapped out, and he is stuck in this hell we call prison!  I have never in my life felt more alone, with soul crushed, than I am now.  My spirit wills me to fight.  But my lack of knowledge, resources, and competent legal representation keep knocking me back to the canvas!"

HFP BLOG
True, HFP is sometimes critical of the Department of Corrections.  But today Doug pays tribute to the department, a specific prison, and an exciting new program - 
http://humanityforprisoners.blogspot.com/​

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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."

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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."
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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."

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​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/

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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."

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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".

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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/

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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."

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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."

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