Cold and inhumane!
January 30. 2019
From a 77-year-old client with terminal cancer, who resides in the Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson:
"THEY HAD US WAITING OUTSIDE IN ZERO TEMPS FOR OUR RESTRICTED MEDS. I GUESS THEY WANT ONE OF US TO KEEL OVER BEFORE THEY REALIZE THAT SOME OF US CAN'T WAIT OUT IN ZERO TEMPS. I HOPE THAT ISN'T ME THAT KEELS OVER."
Imagine something better
January 24, 2019
An editorial from one of our prison writers, Timothy Murphy:
Imagine Michigan prisons to be a place that provides offending citizens no-nonsense programs that actually invest in offender success and future public safety. Imagine that all correctional guards, and other prison staff, are trained to be interventionists and educators who hold offenders accountable for their behavior by providing real opportunities for change, rather than ruling with an "us verses them" vengeful mentality.
Offenders are monitored 24 hours a day 365 days a year by correctional staff who could have a very profound, positive impact on these men and women. If we were to reward our correctional guards for their humanity, role modeling, and meaningful contributions to offender success it would have perpetual public safety benefits by returning offenders back into the community more prepared to become pro-social, law-abiding reformed citizens.
It is high time we seek to bring social justice principles to a higher ground. Not just for the sake of offending citizens, but for the sake of those charged with helping to reform offenders so society will not be further victimized. This should give correctional staff a greater purpose as opposed to treating offenders like mere livestock, with no feelings, compassion, or concern for how this negative treatment of offenders will further hurt our communities by turning out embittered ex-convicts.
Imagine how we can actually use our prisons to make society safer by realigning the way we operate our prisons. If our prison system (commonly called "correctional facilities") really corrected behavior, we would all be winners. But it cannot happen without public support. Citizens need to let their legislators know that they demand dignity-based rehabilitation within our prison system they need to let these lawmakers know that they want legislation to reform our prison system which inevitably will lead to more public safety. Don't put this off till tomorrow or next week. Do it today. We have a new legislature and they are waiting to hear from you.
Able to breathe again!
January 23, 2019
Last August, HFP Medical Director Bob Bulten appealed to the MDOC Bureau of Healthcare Services. Darrell had fallen, had broken his nose, and was having a difficult time breathing. Surgery was necessary. It didn’t happen quickly, but recently we received this message:
"Hello DR. Bulten, just a short word to let you know that I just received my 'nose surgery,' and that all went well. It sure is great breathing through two nostrils again. I am doing much better now, and I hope that you are also doing well in your life. Thanks for your help. your friend, Darrell"
HFP Blog: Have you been reading about the skin rash problem at Michigan’s prison for women? HFP contends it’s a bigger problem than the rash. Overall medical care in Michigan prison’s needs attention! See the latest entry HERE.
January 22, 2019
A client working with dogs sends us his accidental surprise:
"Quite by accident I found a spot where I can see the night sky without the security lights' glare ruining my view of the heavens. For the first time in the better part of a decade I could see the multitude of stars, including what I think is the Big Dipper. It's been so long since I last saw stars so clearly it was literally breathtaking. With zero cloud cover it made sky watching fun. I'll gladly let my dog pull me to this section of her potty area if it means a few precious moments of peaceful awe."
Poetry Behind Bars
January 17, 2019
An update from Ricardo Ferrell, one of our writers behind bars:
From the Cell to the Stage
'Delivering Our Poetic Expressions'
Michigan State University host poetry slam at the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia, which makes the second this year. The idea to offer a poetry class from MSU came from this writer three years ago when a letter was written asking the Creative Writing Department to consider offering a class to prisoners at the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility, the letter was forwarded to RCAH's Poetry Center, where Instructor Guillermo Delgado immediately became interested because he had long wanted to go into an adult facility to offer poetry & art classes, similar to what he was already doing at the Youth Detention Center near Lansing. Since the first MSU poetry class at the Handlon facility, the program has been expanded to four adult facilities; Parnell, Bellamy Creek, I-Max, and Michigan Reformatory.
Many prisoners who have participated in the poetry classes have been able to openly express themselves through poetry for the first time and seem to have found an outlet by which to therapeutically deal with the day-to-day stresses of being incarcerated and away from family and loved ones. At least one class participant revealed to this writer throughout the 4 week class, how he was unsure whether he would be able to fully participate due to his problems with severe anxiety. I suggested he try utilizing breathing techniques and concentrating more on the prospect of believing in himself and coming face-to-face with his embedded fear of speaking in the presence of an audience. Shockingly, even to himself, he delivered a profound and awakening performance with his poem called, "PAIN Fully."
The Poetry Slam winners: 1st place; Salathiel Brown; 2nd place; Sherman Wagner, and tied for 3rd place; Robert Whittenberg/Elijah Morris, each of these winners gave dynamic performances during the contest with the other slammers. Again, all class participants came to the stage for all to see and hear them deliver their poetic expressions. Being coop up in a cell 23 hours a day, one has ample time to challenge themselves in composing poems and other written work, which reveals the creative genius that lies within all of us. The RCAH poets who traveled weekly to participate, extended their help to assure everyone had the best experience possible. Prof. Guillermo Delgado has continuously shown his dedication to the program over the years, by orchestrating the MSU Free Verse Arts Poetry Classes for the RCAH Center and Correctional Facilities to jointly take part and share in a superb experience.
Myself, along with Dean Stephen Esquith, Prof. Guillermo Delgado, and Dr. Kevin Brooks have been in discussions about the possibility of formulating other Michigan State University classes, programs for incarcerated individuals in an effort to help us grow beyond our current circumstances. In other state's like California, New York, Nebreska, and Louisiana, universities and colleges are leading the charge with prison reform by offering meaningful programming to prepare those incarcerated with gearing up for their eventual reintegration into the free world. We here in Michigan can also move toward transforming our prison system to be reflective of the change needed to place folks in the best light possible to return to society better prepared than how they entered.
The MSU Poetry slam held on Tuesday, December 4th, 2018, which showcased both RCAH poets and Main Street poets, was an astounding success. The RCAH poets consisting of 11 Michigan State University students, came to the stage and delivered some thoughtful expressions. The Main Street poets comprised of 15 residents at the Reformatory each gave some dynamic thought provoking demonstrations of their creativity. Both groups of poets worked together for 4 weeks helping each other learn the essentials in writing poetry.
The participants in the second poetry class/slam are: Katie Harger; Cloe Faris; Jessenia Almanza; Anna Backman; Miranda Blankenship; Cecilia Galvan; Jori Griffith; Shelby Merlino; Fallyn Richmond; Alexis Stark; David Mychowski; Sherman Wagner; Anthony Bush; Michael Stevenson; Jason Cumming; Robert Whittenberg; Donte Bailey; Arthur Shelton; Corey Godfrey; Elijah Morris; Salathiel Brown; Robert Vinson; William Watters; Rodney Scott; Jesse Sweeney; and Ricardo Ferrell. Thanks to the Emcees; Adam Davis; Tarik Scott - the Musicians; Corey Fenderson; Raymond Kyle; and Dwight Taylor - the Judges; Dr. Kevin Brooks; Elizabeth Sauter; Anna Backman; Dan Schafer; Robert Miller; and Antonio Lay.
Special thanks to: Dean Stephen Esquith; Prof. Guillermo Delgado; Warden Gregory Skipper; Deputy Warden Fredeane Artis; ADW Jim Dunigan; Rec. Director Dan Schafer; and RMI staff.
Another yarn delivery!
January 11, 2019
HFP board member Judy VanderArk and husband Pete made another delivery of yarn to prison in December. One of the quiet, but highly successful, projects of HFP is to collecting unused spools of yarn from a carpet manufacturer, and deliver these spools to various Michigan prisons for hobby-craft programs. The long trek to Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian meant that inmates were knitting and crocheting special Christmas gifts and blankets for the homeless and needy!
Youth Deterrent Program is 10 years old!
January 10, 2018
Inmate Ricardo Ferrell, one of HFP’s writers behind bars, gives us an update on the Youth Deterrent Program:
"A dream child of Inmate Darryl Woods, Sr., the program was approved by Governor Granholm and the MDOC in 2008. Given the green light to move forward with their initiative to deter at-risk youth from going down the path of destruction, death or prison, participating inmates received specialized training in effective communication and active listening skills.
“The excitement and enthusiasm was evident by how hard we all continued working to see the program become a success. The first group consisted of teens ages 14-18 from Detroit, Saginaw and Port Huron. Most, if not all, already had experienced brushes with the juvenile justice system, in that, they were either facing charges ranging from theft, selling drugs, carrying guns, or attempted murder. Some were on probation.
“Over the past ten years the Youth Deterrent Program has helped hundreds, if not well over a thousand troubled at-risk teens avoid the pitfalls associated with indulging in criminal thinking and/or activities. We took on the motto of No Youth Left Behind and vigorously worked in saving the lives of so-called at-risk youth by providing them with viable alternatives rather than the indulgence in criminality.
“The men who have participated over the last decade in this remarkable life-changing program need to continuously be recognized and commended for their efforts in making a difference in the lives of our kids. The Youth Deterrent Committee vows to keep being their brothers’ keeper by deterring teens from destructive paths and lifestyles.”
A tip of the HFP hat to those prisoners determined to make a difference!
Man's best Friend!
January 8, 2018
A client working with dogs shares their bad day:
"Love my dog Naya, but the girl split my lip and chipped a bottom front tooth early this morning as I was drying her off. The room was dark, too, so I didn't see her flip her head back until it crunched into my face. Naya, I think, actually felt bad as I tried getting the bleeding stopped. She would not leave my side, ears and head down, until I gave her a good rubbing and whispered 'It's OK, girl.'"
January 2, 2019
A lifer who has served more than 40 years responds to Doug’s open heart surgery:
"Hello Doug, So glad to hear you are fine. In God, all things are possible, he is the best surgeon and healer I know, and I know you have strong faith in HIM!!!!!! The love many of us have for you is PRICELESS. You could never imagine how much you are thought of inside these prison walls. You have been family to many of us. So many have no one in the streets to get paperwork for them or to just check things out for them, and you and Matt are always there. Doug, we appreciate you sir, and the love I speak of is UNCONDITIONAL and UNEXPLAINABLE. I will close for now, but I just want you to know that we care!!!!! Your friend in the struggle, George."
Another holiday greeting
December 28, 2018
One of many holiday greetings received at the HFP office:
Thank you for everything you do for prisoners who have been mistreated in Michigan. Your standard of excellence is appreciated as well as your vision. May God bless your Christmas and New Year!!!!!! JESUS is the reason for the season!
December Double: We're just days away from 2019 and almost 80% to our goal of $50,000. If you haven't given yet, please consider having your gift doubled and helping get HFP off on the right foot for the New Year! Click on the link in the upper right hand corner to send your gift online today!
Christmas thoughts from inside
December 27, 2018
A long-time client of HFP shares his thoughts on Christmas:
As a child I was fascinated with the Dr. Seuss character the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. There was just something about the eerie, green, curmudgeonous character that seemed to captivate me.
Even at my then young age I was quite taken by the power of the love displayed by little Cindy Loo Who and its effect on the heart of the mean ol' Mr. Grinch. Even now as an adult I am still quit fond of the Christmas classic, and equally as moved by it, though for reasons other than those I harbored as a child.
You see, having been in prison now for 33 years, I can rather relate to the Grinch character. As someone who, like the Grinch, is completely removed from society I feel like a complete outsider when it comes to the Christmas season. Someone forced to watch from afar all the season's festivities; family and friends spending time together, sharing gifts, eating holiday meals, and so on.
So, just as it was for the Grinch, high atop that mountain staring down into Whoville, it, too, gets very lonely in here----even more so during the Christmas season. I do my very best to keep it all in perspective, but deep down in my heart I still wait each year for a Christmas miracle. Perhaps there is still a bit of that child left in me after all these years.
Merry Christmas to the entire HFP family and readers.
Typical holiday greeting from a prisoner
December 20, 2018
A holiday message to HFP:
"Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Seasons Greetings. Thank you all for helping and for your love and concern. We appreciate everyone’s work and relentlessly fighting. God bless all of you. As we celebrate Christ's birth and thank Him for His accomplishments on the cross for all of us, we are thankful for the gifts of your organization and its purposes."
No more growing?
December 18, 2018
Grower's Row was a popular class at Lakeland Correctional Facility where inmates were able to farm fresh vegetables and fruits. Our friend Bill recently gave us this update:
"Growers Row is dead. Growing produce for the local community has been discontinued by the administration. So far in 2018 we have produced over 8 tons of produce. We still have some cabbage, carrots, beets, turnips, and radishes in the ground, though. I don't think there's a better way to gain acceptance than to go straight from prison to helping the community. Although we get paid the scraps that we get, we bust our asses growing tons of food. And everything is done without the use of any motorized equipment. All the digging and cultivating is hand done. From planting, to weeding, cultivating, and harvesting…all done by man power, not machines. And we only have 6 guys that maintain a one-acre garden, plus a greenhouse and a cold frame. It’s a shame to stop it."
HFP Contacted Legislative Liaison Kyle Kaminski re the program, and he quickly followed up with an explanation:
"The instructor retired, so the formal program was wound down as horticulture isn't a high demand employment field. The facility has indicated they intend to still support growing there, but not as a vocational class. We left the equipment down there to support their volunteer efforts."
Some thoughts on the Michigan prison system
A long-time client writes HFP:
"The tax payers are being hoodwinked. You got officers that come in here daily harassing guys because they have a misconception that it is what their job entails. But, as soon as one of the guys hurts one of them, we suffer the consequences. Why? When some things can be avoided before it come to that. But what the state do, they sacrifice their clowns and plea to the public for more restraints---prisons and officers. I laugh to keep myself from worrying myself sick."
We have time to help
December 12, 2018
When John reached out from his prison cell to HFP, asking if we had time to help, Susie was quick to reply. John’s response:
"I received your message and you said 'Of course we have time for you.' Those seven words cordially touched me and made me realize that God, our Lord still fills the world with beautiful, spirited and wonderful human-beings...and you are one of them. Your statement, your kind words have rejuvenated my hope."
Missing the older generation
December 11, 2018
An older HFP client writes:
"The mentality of staying in the struggle for change is not in this generation any more. Their priorities are twisted! If someone else isn’t fighting their battles for them, there is no fight. They lie down and accept the injustices and misdirect their energy against the wrong people, e.g., each other! This generation is messed up. How do you help someone who is not willing to put in the equal work and energy into their problem as you are putting in it? I really miss all the older guys who were fighters and challenged the injustices that robbed our souls."
December 6, 2018
When an HFP client asked a question about his vision, HFP went to our friend Dr. Tom, an ophthalmologist, for the answer. When we relayed the answer back to Mr. R, this was the response:
"I RECD YOUR AWESOME ANSWER TO MY REQUEST. IN THE PAST 10. YRS I HAVE NEVER BEEN MADE PRIVY TO THE INFO THAT DR TOM RELAYED TO ME VIA YOU GUYS. NOW I UNDERSTAND! AS ALWAYS, DR TOMS DIAGNOSIS WAS RIGHT ON!! THANKS VERY MUCH TO ALL."
Man's best friend
December 4, 2018
A client working with dogs celebrates his puppy's accomplishment:
"The best news is my all-time baby boy, Sully, is now an emergency response dog! His empathetic tendency made him perfect as an emotional support animal (ESA). True, he was bred to become a service dog, but our instructor said sometimes the puppy picks the career, not PAWS."
Two is a crowd
November 29, 2018
A client writes HFP about his current living conditions:
"I am located in a cell with another prisoner 21 hours a day. I am forced to shower at the same time with my bunkie, go to all yards with my bunkie, and attend chow with my bunkie. We are locked in a cell where the toilet does not flush but every 5 minutes, and if flushed before the 5 minutes it will be stuck for an hour. We are forced to live in this same room without any window to open, and if the officer walks past he will tell us to remove the sheet that is there to give privacy while going to the bathroom."
Man's best friend?
November 15, 2018
A client working with dogs shares a funny moment:
"I am filing assault and CSC charges against my friend Tim's dog, Ares. When I went to his cell/room this morning she leapt up and planted her paws straight into soft spots and then when I doubled over she stuck her tongue fully into my mouth. Yuck! She did something similar to our friends Taylor and Ryan yesterday. What we want to know is what is Tim teaching this dog behind closed doors? :)"
Inmate speaks out
November 8, 2018
A frustrated client writes HFP:
"I am ready to show and prove the world wrong and make a change in the world. I cry myself to sleep thinking about the trouble I got myself in. One son locked up, one dead, trying to get home so I can save my daughters and grandchildren. It's a sad situation for me. This is one slow death my friend. And guys are knocking the doors down to get in here and run from their responsibilities as men. I just don't understand it. Thanks for the support and gift of caring about the brothers behind the walls. This is not rehabilitation at all. They just keep on messing over everybody! Peace and respect, Mr. W."
Behind Bars - Infirmary woes at the women's prison
November 1, 2018
A client at Michigan's prison for women writes HFP:
"I reside in the infirmary at WHV. They’ve started locking us in our rooms while they do the medication pass. It is so bad! It’s taking an average of 3 ½ hours per day to do 3 med passes…some days it’s over 4 hours. They are giving us our breakfast and lunch in our room. It’s cold and we cannot use the microwave. I am housed in a cell where the ceiling leaks when it rains. I have reported it a couple times. The head nurse supervisor said, “Well, at least it will be frozen over soon and you won’t have to worry about it.”
Parole Agent donates time in Ionia
October 30, 2018
An employee of the Michigan Department of Corrections volunteers some of his time at the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia, according to one of our inmate reporters. Parole Agent Troy Baker, who has been with the MDOC for nearly a quarter century, volunteers two hours every Tuesday night to conduct a Parole Readiness Class. A fellow prisoner told HFP the class “offers participants the opportunity to direct their own course in preparation of obtaining a parole and maintaining their freedom.”
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!"