Success in a document search!
October 18, 2018
HFP assists our clients seeking legal documents. One satisfied client writes back:
"I have some wonderful news! I have received my polygraph results! I still get goosebumps and my eyes water when I think about it. I will continue to keep you informed. Thank you for EVERYTHING you have done to help me obtain my polygraph results! Also, thank you for all of your support and prayers for our incarcerated population."
October 16, 2018
From an client whose application for commutation of his sentence was denied by the Governor’s Office:
"They didn't read over any of my paper work they just followed the recommendation from the parole board, and just denied me. In 2014 I saved a staff member from being raped by someone who was stalking her. I put myself in the line, because I would want someone to stand up for my mother, sister or one of my daughters. They couldn't have looked over my paper work. I put all of my paper work in their from my school records about my learning disability and all, showing that I have a low (IQ). They didn't read over my paper work. It's a bunch of bullshit if you ask me. In 23/years I only caught one ticket that's all. What else do they want from me? I stay out of trouble. They just throw away the key on us. It's crazy. I just have to face reality that I will die in here with this second degree life sentence over my head. It's no hope for me."
No soap at Saginaw CF
October 11, 2018
A client housed at Saginaw Correctional Facility contacts HFP:
"I’m experiencing retaliation after writing a grievance against the staff. I came to his facility on the 12th, and had no personal hygiene products in my property. So on the 13th I started asking for the hygiene kit for indigent inmates: a tooth brush, a few soap and a deodorant. You’re supposed to get these until you get your indigent store order once a month for $11. I was denied this kit, and had to brush my teeth with only water, and shower with no soap."
Heartbreak and frustration for Senior
October 9, 2018
Our friend Willie, 83 and battling cancer, writes from his Michigan prison cell:
"My son got out of prison on April 29. He sounded very strange when he talked to me on the phone. His sister took him to the hospital 6 days after he got out. Brain tumor. He went into a coma, and never came out. He passed away. They won’t let my daughter bury her brother. The body is still in a funeral home in Vegas. I have spent over $500 in phone calls."
More appreciation for HFP
October 4, 2018
It's not uncommon for one HFP client to refer us to another inmate who is also in need. One such client writes back:
"A big thank you to you and your team. Because of your organization my friend James was helped and cared for. Extraordinary work! Very much appreciated!"
Visitation problems in Coldwater
September 27, 2018
The wife of a client at Lakeland Correctional Facility writes HFP:
"Yesterday, while on visit, my husband was yelled at to come to the front of the room because we were talking with our heads bowed like in prayer. We pray quite often and have our heads down reading the Bible many times too, and while I don’t like to complain, yesterday was different. We were told our visit will be terminated if it happened again. So then we were afraid to do anything other than just hold hands and sit forward because we didn’t know what was allowed and what wasn’t. The COs that were on duty seemed to take pleasure in calling people out. There were three sitting up there yesterday and they were laughing and looking at people and shaking their heads. We just want to see our loved ones! I just want to be able to pray and be close to my husband. My husband, and all the others, deserve to be treated like men, not animals. I truly believe that if they were treated better they would, in turn, be better to others and have the confidence they need to better themselves. It is through love and encouragement that people can grow in this way no matter what their situation. I thank you for taking the time to read this letter and do what you are doing. You are a blessing to those who need it most."
Let old and ailing parolable lifers out!
September 25, 2018
An Ionia prisoner’s rant:
"Yesterday they had to rush my friend Darnell by ambulance downtown to Sparrow Hospital due to him having complications with his heart. They checked him out and he was having irregular heartbeats. Anyway, this is why I keep writing essays about elderly prisoners who are eligible for parole but the parole board keeps on denying guys without justifiable reasoning. Many of the parolable lifers who have served 40-50 years have been diagnosed as having serious medical conditions and are among the chronic care population. My question continues to be: what threat to society does a Darnell pose? He's 66, first time in prison and has been there 43 years. Simply put, his incarceration is wasting taxpayers’ dollars, not to mention the human cost associated with him deteriorating in prison due to needless continued incarceration. This prison system is broken, especially with how the parole board treats parole eligible elderly prisoners."
Hot at WHV!
September 20, 2018
A recent report from Michigan's prison for women:
"We need help in Unit #4. It is so hot, and for two days the heat index was 100, which means the unit was at least 15 degrees hotter, not to mention our rooms! We have hardly any fans in the unit and the B-side lower level does not have any working fans. I have asked every shift officer…I even asked to speak with the captain about this inhumane condition, and he refused to talk to me about it. Just for the record, we don’t have air conditioning to repair, we do not have a working fan, and there’s no ventilation. No way to cool off. The response by staff to me today was, 'Well, it will only be 77 tomorrow!'"
More complaints about the prison store
September 18, 2018
A long-time client of HFP writes:
"They up the prices on all of the popular selling items, e.g., tuna, meat sticks, soups, rice, crackers, cheese, peanut butter, jelly and other items! Ironically, none of our work wages have increased since the 80's. So who is paying the bulk of these prices? Our family and friends, the tax payers! Often the items we buy are running close to the expiration dates. Often the bake goods are moldy. Items we request a lot of times we don't get, which makes me believe that they substitute our requests with items that are not selling or about to expire, and because nobody want to wait two weeks for another store order, we accept the bag, or wait 3 weeks to be refunded. And I haven't mentioned that they have restricted us to purchasing all white undergarments, and gym shoes."
No holiday ice cream
September 13, 2018
A client at Oaks CF in Manistee writes:
"On the holiday (Labor Day) we had a disturbance. Our holiday meal was supposed to have apple pie and ice cream for dessert. However, in segregation we do not get the ice cream or the apple pie. About 8 prisoners on another wing refused to give back their meal trays. Some even held their door slots open. The Prisoners Benefit Fund pays for our holiday meal. One prisoner yelled out that he saw an officer eating an ice cream…yet the prisoners did not get what the PBF paid for that they were entitled to."
A service offered by HFP at no charge
September 11, 2018
A client writes:
"I’ve been in contact with an agency in Detroit, to inquire about assistance in preparing a commutation application, but she charges $5,000, which I don’t have. And I don’t have family to assist me. I’ve heard about your organization and some of the works you are doing, so I’m simply writing to humbly ask, can you please assist me?"
Yes we can. We have prepared a printed guideline on how to answer the questions on the form. We’ll help in answering the questions, and in getting the final form typed up. And it’s all done at no cost to the inmate or his/her family.
Little things mean a lot
September 6, 2018
From the wife of an inmate:
"It was wonderful to see on Thursday that NCF had replaced a broken vending machine and it was stocked with FOOD! It's the small things, right?"
Inmate loves Holly's work!
September 5, 2018
HFP Vice President Holly Honig-Josephson has prepared a 16-page document to assist prisoners in preparing to meet with the Michigan Parole Board. Today, words of praise from an inmate:
"In all of my years in prison, I have never seen anything this well put together as it relates to material on how best to prepare for an actual parole interview and/or public hearing. I hope you don't mind but I would like to share your packet with our class at Ionia CF. Myself, along with 11-others have been attending a Parole Readiness Class which is instructed by a current Parole Agent who has worked with the MDOC for 24 years. I will be making 13-copies to pass out in next week’s class, one for each prisoner and one for both instructors. I have to tell you I am very excited about the possibility of sharing this material with everyone in our class!"
Deploring circumstances at state prison clinic
September 4, 2018
Diane, mother of a prisoner in final stages of cancer, pens these comments after visiting her son at the Duane L. Waters Clinic in Jackson:
"Today, my son, whom I did not recognize due to his nearly 90 lb weight loss in 7 months, was forced to sit on a narrow, backless cold metal bench to visit with me for 45 minutes. He needed to leave because it was causing him such pain. I asked for a chair or wheelchair for him to sit in during our visit. It was denied as it is against rules and required Dr's orders. He was so dehydrated his facial skin was flaking off and his mouth was full of sores. I demand he be taken care of at least as well as animals are in the humane society."
HFP Blog: Doug thinks it’s time to open a fresh can of common sense! Read today's entry HERE. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
HFP helps prisoner in legal battle
August 31, 2018
While HFP doesn't offer legal advice or services, we do offer to obtain documents for our clients who struggle to get them on their own. One such client writes back to our office:
"I have made it past Summary Judgment in one of my lawsuits, and my very rare victory was largely possible because of a state document you got for me. I have won the right to go to trial, and soon negotiations will start to try to settle with me. I will not forget HFP. This is a huge accomplishment for a prisoner to make it to this stage, but through 7 years of self-taught law and assistance from HFP, I'm now one of a few that have done it. Thank you so very much. Forever indebted, and my day to pay it forward is coming soon."
Sour milk at Oaks CF
August 28, 2018
A client at Oaks Correctional Facility in Manistee writes:
"On 8/6/18 I received a milk that was dated 8/3/18. When I poured it in the toilet it was so spoiled that it had lumps in it. This happens on a daily basis, as I often hear other inmates complaining about spoiled milk. On 8/8 the milk was so spoiled that the officers on 2nd shift refused to serve it. They called Chow Hall to have another crate of milk sent to the unit."
51-year-old woman finds peace in adversity
August 24, 2018
"I am having a good day today, however, some days are better than others. I'm managing to stay strong, rely on God and others for love, strength, and support. I was originally diagnosed with lesions on my left lung, and I began chemotherapy for that. It was going really well with a few exceptions, and then they found more lesions on my right lung...seven as a matter of fact. So, they ended up implanting a port and I'm having chemo like every two weeks or so. A medical commutation was put in for me, and that's basically what I'm waiting on. I have been to the parole board and it went really well. I just learned that I have lesions on my pelvis, liver and brain, and the chemo is pretty much serving it all.
Thanks so much for taking interest in me and my situation. May God continue to bless and keep."
Still drugs in the women's prison!
August 23, 2018
"There are a lot of drugs in here right now, worse than ever! So I guess making it where our grandchildren can’t send us crayon or marker pictures didn’t work. Maybe one day they’ll see that it isn’t the mail or the visit as much as it is the staff. Maybe 10% of the drugs come in through the mail, enough for one or two people to get high. But the stuff coming in now is heroin, meth, fentanyl, and suboxone, and the quantity could only be staff. Please tell me how long they are going to continue blaming prisoners."
Kindness behind bars, and what the Parole Board doesn’t see
August 21, 2018
The wife of a Michigan prisoner tells how her husband recently wrote a note to his two little boys: “How are you guys doing today? My friend Scott made me a ‘breakfast sandwich’ this morning. He surprised me. The sandwich consisted of meat, cheese, mild peppers, BBQ sauce on a bagel. That was really nice of him. Always remember, small acts of kindness are often most Christlike. I can’t wait to make you breakfast. : )”
Then Mrs. Inmate added: Scott was just flopped this year after many, many years in prison. He is an example of one who over the years has shown the kind of authentic change the Parole Board just can't see in a Transition Plan. When I read this small entry, I was filled with such gratitude for people like Scott who, despite a hopeless situation, is still willing to do the small acts of kindness that help him rise above his circumstances. In this case, it was my husband who benefitted. Thanks, Scott!
Giving back from Behind Bars
August 17, 2018
Two exceptionally meaningful donations arrived in the mail on a recent Monday: checks from prisoners, who may earn as little as a dollar a day. One for $25 and the other for $12. Said one of the inmates: "Enclosed is a donation, a small token of my gratitude for all of the amazing work you and HFP are doing on behalf of prisoners. You are doing a great work and we truly appreciate it!"
Not the kind of bedding you get back home
August 16, 2018
Jim just go transferred to the UP, and he complains:
"The mattress they gave me has a 4 inch cut in it and they told me they did not have any others. The pillows are also full of holes, you cannot clean them. The linen looks like it’s from a dumpster…it’s brown with white spots on it!"
Pointless to keep old-timers in prison
August 15, 2018
Ricardo, age 60, writes this to HFP:
"Stephen was paroled July 3rd, after serving 41 years on his parolable life sentence. There is another prisoner here who has served 45 years on his parolable life sentence that I am trying to help. This system is truly broken, keeping people locked up 35, 40, 45, 50 plus years who are no longer a threat is really sad. We are in our 60's & 70's and just wish to live out the remainder of our lives as law abiding productive returning citizens. I believe we deserve a Second Chance."
August 14, 2018
A client from WHV writes:
"Today I am admitting to you that after being in prison for 3 years, I am very good at stealing. Now it’s not my fault (spoken like a true criminal). It’s a fact that most people steal when they don’t have anything. If you think that I am wrong, take a suitcase full of things and walk through a place where people have nothing and see what happens. You would steal food if you were hungry enough. What I’ve learned is that when I am ready to steal, I must be careful of who is around me. There are other inmates who would really hate what I do. I must also be mindful of which officers are around. I have already been busy at my task this morning. I found myself alone in the small yard. I looked left and then I looked right, gathered up my courage and I did it…I sang along with my radio! My crime? What did I steal? I stole 3 minutes of joy. And I totally got away with it!"
Another chapter on the officer shortage at WHV
August 8, 2018
A client in Michigan's prison for women writes HFP:
"This is the first time in over a week that we have had an officer in the fieldhouse. They’ve had to cancel the following for a week straight: Chance for Life, Youth Enrichment, Hobby-craft mail-out and pick-up, music lessons, weights and aerobics, conflicts, health transformations, praise dance, strength and muscle, camp cardio, and perhaps some others. For three months now I can count on two hands how many days the fieldhouse has been open. The anxiety in here doesn’t matter to them. This would not be happening in the men’s prisons. We do have staff being trained, but we have little confidence that these new officers will change all this."
HFP Blog: Prison visits, stressful, costly, but important! See today’s post HERE.
Giving back to the community
August 3, 2018
A client trying to give back writes HFP:
"We are currently preparing to start up our Bears for Kids Programs that we had at Macomb 2004 and is still up and running today. It is where we hand-made stuffed animals and gave them away to children in crisis situations."
An assistant on suicide watch
July 31, 2018
A client working with suicidal inmates writes HFP:
"I've been so busy sitting with suicidal inmates but we're doing our best to get them accountability, friends and coping skills to help them live productive lives. If they are open to Christ, we go that route but if not, OK. Either way we pray. We are seeing some success. Thankful for the income this provides me, but I never want people suicidal so I can make a living. As with you, I have so much to do and so little time."
HFP Blog: A serious problem with prison health care: the unconscionable delay! See today’s blog post HERE.
Parolee thanks HFP
July 27, 2018
A recently-paroled client writes HFP:
"I would like to thank you for your support throughout this experience. You have not only helped me, but also been a major support for my family. You have provided them with events and opportunities to channel their frustration in a positive manner. Despite my irrational behavior and inappropriate actions, you reached out. Thank you."
HFP Blog: Doug and a prisoner join hands to complain, once again, about too many old people in prison…wasted money, wasted lives. Read the latest entry HERE.
Prisoner appreciates HFP parole plan assistance
July 26, 2018
A client working on his parole plan writes HFP:
"I want to thank you for all the support over the past couple years. I am using you're recommendation for the 70x7 program in Muskegon for my parole plans. Over the past year or so I've had the pleasure of corresponding with Medical Consultant Dr Bob Bulten who gives regular and encouraging posts. You and Matt also helped me to establish a contact person with the AA group in the area so that I can hit the ground running, so to speak, and continue with regular meetings once released. The Parole Board liked my parole plans as well as relapse prevention readiness, and I really appreciate the advice and assistance you have given me."
Elevator problem at Brooks CF
July 24, 2018
A recent report from Brooks Correctional Facility:
"The elevator at Brooks has not been working for the last two weeks and no one has bothered to come and fix it, therefore prisoners who are wheelchair bound are confined to their wing. My husband said that he helped one man in a wheelchair who wanted to go outside, by pulling his wheelchair up a large flight of concrete stairs, however the majority of people in wheelchairs are stuck."
HFP Blog: It happens time and again. Someone meets a prisoner, and life is never the same. See the guest post on today’s HFP blog HERE.
Yearning of an inmate
July 20, 2018
"I need a Dairy Queen blizzard. I'm 17 years short."
HFP Blog: Father Greg Boyle, HFP’s guest speaker in Grand Haven last year, was quick to point out that gang members with whom he worked carried burdens far heavier than his. The same is true regarding Michigan prisoners with whom we work. Read Doug’s thoughts in today’s blog HERE.
No Coverage for Graduation
July 19, 2018
"Last week here at Cooper Street CF was a ceremony for the graduate class of 2018, through Jackson College. I also am a Jackson College participant. Warden Barrett allowed the 27 grads to invite two visitors. Family members of the grads got to come onto the compound and attend the ceremony in the gym. The event lasted over an hour, the President and Vice President of the college spoke their usually inspirational sincere dialogue, which I appreciated and enjoyed. But for such a momentous occasion this event was not covered by any media nor any mention in a newspaper, that I am aware of."
Women paying high prices
July 18, 2018
Complaint from WHV:
"Store prices have risen twice in the last 6 months. The state pay remains at 74 cents a day for unskilled workers and you are allowed to work 5 days a week. That’s less than $20 a month! If we don’t have family support we can barely afford hygiene items. Examples: Tuna went from 2.25 to 2.81 to 3.54; Chili with no beans, 2.08 to 3.05 to 3.33; Salami, 1.48 to 1.58 to 1.70. Shampoo and conditioner cost us $8.00 apiece. Can anything be done about this?"
One Prisoner Helping Another
July 17, 2018
"When I transferred to Lapeer my first bunkie was "Red," a young, muscle-bound white kid who didn't think he would amount to anything after returning to prison, a drug habit, and a pile of debt. I gave him the same set of speeches I'd used on others…stop feeling sorry for himself, get involved in programming, and enroll in college. Interestingly enough, people tend to at least listen politely. Anyway, so it was with Red, but then he was on his way home, I moved in with another guy. Last Thursday his name popped up on my approved JPay list. It didn't ring any bells, but after clicking on his line it turned out to be Red. He has followed Plan B, working at one point three jobs to pay off his restitution, got married and now has three children, and owns and operates a masonry business. He's doing well enough he could help pay for his wife's schooling to become a nurse. He wanted to thank me and ask whether there was anything he could do to help."
Bad water at Ionia CF
July 12, 2018
A client housed at Ionia Correctional Facility writes:
"The water here is near undrinkable especially the water from the sinks at the end of the wing(our primary source of hot water). Whenever I drink from that faucet I instantly feel a discomfort in my stomach and have bowel issues for the rest of the day. The water in our cells leaves a film on our dishes and cups if we let it set for an extended period of time. The administration assures us that the water is fine and perfectly drinkable yet they instruct their officers to bring water in from the outside(every officer walks around with a large gallon jug of water from home), All the water used in the chow hall must be filtered before it can be used to cook with and to top it off they bring in bottled water for the dog program located on I-1 inside."
Thoughts from a client's wife
July 6, 2018
Insight from the wife of a Michigan prisoner:
"Everything that happens in our lives happens for a reason. I take example from you, Doug. If Maurice Carter had not been wrongfully convicted, you would have never met him, and you would not have been inspired and instructed by God to start Humanity for Prisoners, which has and will continue to help so many behind prison walls. I have come to realize that no matter how wrong, sad and impossible something seems, it has happened for a reason and only through God may we see light at the end of the tunnel.
"Thank you for all that you do and for the humanity that you show."
A different perspective
July 3, 2018
A couple who support HFP with prayers and finances offer this response, after being told they make a difference:
"THANK YOU for providing the means for us to make a difference. We love your work!"
A Poem of Thanks
June 29, 2018
From an HFP client:
A Poem of Thanks
There was a day not long ago
My heart was heavy, full of woe.
My appellate wins were snatched away.
The prosecutor had his say.
A commutation I now seek.
But a rejection letter came last week.
The Parole Board said, "Not this year."
It was the answer I had feared.
God saw my tears; he heard me pray.
He told me he would light the way.
"Stand strong" He said, "And do not bend."
A band of angels I will send.
You came from far; you came from near.
Your resolve is strong; your mission clear.
One April morn you all did meet.
"Freedom for Nancy" you will seek.
Pen to paper, you did write.
To Lansing, you will take the fight.
Your voices form a mighty roar.
A force the Governor can't ignore.
A miracle is close at hand.
Thanks to you who took a stand.
My hope restored, I now stand tall.
So from my heart, I thank you all.
Fondly, Nancy Seaman #520695
HFP is on their mind
June 28, 2018
A client reaches out to HFP:
"A little note to let you know you are always in our thoughts and prayers. Those of you who look upon us with some compassion and care surely make a difference in our lives. Those of us who truly understand all that you do are so very grateful!"
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."