Get to work!?
March 27, 2020
A client at Chippewa Correctional Facility sent this update:
"The Gov. has a shelter in place order and no work for none important jobs guess who is working? MSI! (Michigan State Industries is a manufacturer operating within the Michigan Department of Corrections). We work even when we have sick people here and a unit locked down."
MDOC Coronavirus Plans
March 12, 2020
As Coronavirus has spread into Michigan, HFP reached out to the MDOC regarding plans to combat and control the virus. This was the MDOC's response:
"We have protocols that exist for monitoring, controlling and treating infectious illnesses. We’ve been monitoring Coronavirus since the beginning of February..., you will likely see some additional guidance coming out from the MDOC in the near future specific to preventing the possible spread of Coronavirus. This will be part of the State of Michigan’s overall response to the illness."
HFP will continue to monitor and communicate our concerns.
Grateful for medical attention
March 4, 2020
Mr. R has multiple medical issues, and wasn't getting the right appointments. A few weeks after contacting HFP, he sent this update:
"Well, last week they took me to get another CatScan, and then call to the Unit Friday, and told me that I was approved for an Orthpetic. I dont know whether you call up here, or was it just the CHJ-121 form I submit with your name and the Dr. name on it that cause them to act. Either way I am grateful. I have never had the Medical Provider call the Unit to speak to me about my health. SO, THANKS!!!"
Man's best friend
February 27, 2020
A letter from a client involved in a dog training program:
"A day spent training Byron. We have him going to his bed from 30' away on the cue, backing up slowly between a wall and chairs for six feet (he HATES backing up), stopping in motion, and even sitting in motion. He still doesn't want to go down (dropping to his belly and kicking his hips to the side), but the power of peanut butter compels him to follow the smear of PB to the floor. He needs to be able to do this (and all the other cues) on verbal only, but until he gets it into his wee brain, we'll use the food lure and a hand motion. I also power walked him for a half-hour in the snow, then jogged with him in the greenhouse until his tongue was hanging out (mine, too). He, however, has had the luxury of napping for the last hour. Such a hard, hard life. :-) I cannot imagine serving my time without a dog."
A client struggles with ADHD
February 25, 2020
Mr. C struggles with ADHD, and he's not allowed to take the medication in prison that he was on before. Desperate for any ideas, he reached out to HFP and received a prompt reply from Matt. His reaction:
"Thank you for your quick response. Thank you for taking the time to read and research my concerns. I have gotten more helpful information from you in your last letter about ADHD than my whole 7 years of being in prison. I have at times just thought I was just stupid and there was no cure for stupid. Your email helps me see hope. Maybe you can help me get a new case worker. I don’t feel stupid, and I feel my life matters. Thank you for all you do."
No Longer Behind Bars!
February 20, 2020
Long-time friend of HFP Adam Grant enjoys lunch with Doug Tjapkes, just two weeks after stepping into freedom.
Adam had been incarcerated for 27 years. He has already enrolled at Jackson College for the summer term. Adam
was here to visit our new office, and to assist in the production of a new HFP video. He and Doug first met at an
ethics conference at Kinross CF around 2007, when our agency was still called INNOCENT.
When Christians connect
February 18, 2020
Prisoners seldom get to share a cell with someone of the same faith. After 33 years of incarceration, Mr. D. reports:
"I'm finally in with a fellow lifer with similar background, education, and faith. It is nice saying morning prayers before 0730 breakfast, readings for the day's Mass at 1045, and evening prayers (admittedly early) at 1600. We've yet to decide on night prayers together, so still do them individually. Add in Bible study and just plain ol' godly conversation and this room is more church-like than cell-like."
An appreciated visit!
February 13, 2020
A friend told HFP about an inmate who hadn’t had a visit for years and asked if someone could see him. Our Medical Director Dr. Bulten was heading that way, so he stopped in to see the inmate. This response came from our caller: George wrote to tell me that he had a wonderful visit with Dr Bob and he wanted me to pass on his gratitude to you for organising his first visit in 26 years. Thank you so much, it warms my heart that Dr Bob took the time to go out and spend time with George! Only 12% of Michigan prisoners even receive a visit!
Man's Best Friend
January 28, 2020
Our friend Douglas is one of the inmate dog trainers. He gives us this report:
"Aspen, the cute all-white poodle, has gone back to PAWS for Phase-II training, so I'm excited for her. In her place I now have a 73-pound Golden Retriever named Byron who is 14 months old and falls asleep at the drop of a hat. He's a big, affectionate pup who seems eager to please and to learn, just so long as we don't bother his six or seven daily naps. :-) Well, my fur baby just woke up in mid-snore, so think I'll take him out for a potty break as I've run out of things to report. Will chirp with you again soon."
Words of appreciation
January 23, 2020
A client lets HFP know how he feels:
"If you haven't heard it lately - you and organization are appreciated. I thank you behalf of all those who use your services and myself. Have a great day and sensational year(s)."
HFP Blog: We love the good stories, but most that we see and hear aren’t very nice. See today’s entry HERE.
Clients call for Clemency Council reinstatement
January 16, 2020
A group of Humanity for Prisoners clients say the time is right for Michigan’s new Governor and Attorney General to reinstate a clemency council. Governor Granholm formed such a council in 2007 (see the Executive Order HERE ) to assist the Parole Board. Thanks to that council’s work 168 prisoners received clemency…37 of them serving life without parole. Governor Granholm’s successor, Gov. Rick Snyder, dissolved the council.
Our clients say that legislative changes are certainly possible, but it’s a slow process. Governor Granholm made the move by executive order. It involved 7 volunteers from a cross section of society. In other words, it happened in a hurry and didn’t cost the state anything.
One client, who is serving a life sentence, says: “I think a united effort should be undertaken by all prison and sentencing reform groups to reinstate the council.”
January 2, 2019
Here’s how one client expressed gratitude to HFP:
"As always, thanks for all that you're doing to make our state a less punitive and more reconciling place."
Blessings for HFP
December 27, 2019
Our client Mr. T sent this holiday greeting:
"I just want to bless you with the thoughts of love, peace and joy for all the days of your lives. Continue to be the inspiration and encouraging person you are. I pray for prosperity and the wealth of God's kingdom to flow smoothly and effortlessly in you life. That the year 2020 and beyond prove to be the best days of your life. That perfect health and wholeness permeates every atom and cell in your body. Love you always, Matt!!!"
On life in prison
December 17, 2019
A client shares a recent experience:
"This morning, December 1, I walked into our chapel and turned on all of the music equipment for worship while everyone was filing in for service. I immediately noticed a metal adjustment rod missing from my microphone stand, a potential stabbing instrument in the hands of the wrong prisoner. Things like this are quickly sold, to be fashioned as weaponry on the prisoner black market. I reported the missing piece to the officers, who played back the previous chapel service camera. They discovered the perpetrator, retrieved the rod, and issued him a ticket. Trust works favorably in here, both ways. Every time I assist with improving the safety and security, it’s another merit notch on my belt."
An outgoing prisoner’s thoughts
December 12, 2019
Doug and Adam connected back in HFP’s formative years when our founder made a prison presentation in the U.P. Now, after serving 26 years, Adam is looking forward to a parole. In his note to Doug, he says:
"Know I love and appreciate you. Seeing it from in here, I know what a huge impact you have made on peoples’ lives. If nothing else, you have shown them they are not alone and that SOMEONE cares. That is not a small feat. Keep up the good work and please make sure the rest of HFP knows just how deep their efforts reach."
An exceptional Thanksgiving Greeting
December 4, 2019
A Thanksgiving greeting from a client:
"I pause on this day of Thanksgiving to thank you for your friendship over the years. I noticed values for 'goods' in the marketplace…they are rated as: Good, Better, and Best. Guess what? In a personal metrics...you're all at the top of the list---The BEST!"
November 29, 2019
A client's note to HFP on Wednesday:
"As the year have rapidly transpired and we come upon the Thanksgiving season I wanted the thank you for your steadfest support and love. I am speaking on behalf of the thousands of men and women you have assisted, encouraged, and shared moments with, we are thankful for you and love you all so much. May your Thanksgiving be filled with love of family, passion of faith, and great meals of memories. Take a minute and say "I love you" to your family members and tell them I said "thank you for sharing you with us". Happy Thanksgiving!"
The heat is on!
November 21, 2019
On Nov. 8, with a snowstorm on the way, HFP received this message:
"Some of the cells have heat but mine and quite a few more don't. We have an arctic wave coming."
That same day, HFP reaches out to the facility to draw their attention to the situation.
Three days later:
"They took a bunch of temperature tests in the rooms. The LT was here and he is looking into it."
Finally, one week after the original contact:
"They fixed the heat as of 11-13-19 and they put in some salamander heaters through the window of the hallway. Its nice and toasty, we now have to crack a window to keep from being roasted alive, Good Work. Thank You to you and your team."
Costly health care
November 20, 2019
In Michigan prisons, a visit to the health care (not necessarily a doctor) costs $5. Starting standard pay for a job inside is $.74 to $1.24 PER DAY. Our client, Mr. E, talks about what decisions he's forced to make:
"I AM BEING PRICED OUT OF SEEKING MEDICAL CARE. MY PAY FOR THIS MOTH WAS DEBITTED $10.00 FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT. I WORK A PRISON JOB AS MY ONLY SOURCE OF MONEY. I RECEIVE NO OUTSIDE HELP. THAT AMOUNT OF MONEY IS TAKING FIVE DAYS PAY FROM ME. I CANNOT AFFORD THAT WITH EVERYTHING ELSE I HAVE TO PAY FOR. CHRONIC CARE ISSUES ONCE COVERED THIS BUT NOT ANY MORE...
"IN THAT I CANT AFFORD THESE DEBTS, I AM LEFT TO NOT INFORM MEDICAL AND SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES. IF I BLEED OUT THEY CAN AT LEAST PICK UP MY COLD DEAD BODY. MANY OF OUR MEDS HAVE BEEN PUSHED TO OVER-THE-COUNTER, WHICH WE HAVE TO BUY WITH OUR PAY... ONCE THEY TAKE ALL YOUR PAY BUYING MEDS AND SEEING MEDICAL BECOMES A STANDING DEBT WE OWE THE STATE THAT MUST BE PAID IN THE FUTURE BY US OR OUR FAMILIES WHEN THE STATE SEIZES OUR LIFE-INSURANCE ON OUR DEATH."
Putting a plan together
November 19, 2019
Mr. L needed an outline for his relapse prevention plan, and came to HFP. We sent a template to him, and received this response:
"Thanks for the 10/8/19 reply to the problem I had with the relapse prevention plan. Great advice and much appreciated. I got ahold of a 17 page outline that was great; not sure who put it out but got it copied and have something to work with now. I'm going to send some funds your way soon. Really appreciate all the help you provide. You guys provide an invaluable service that is most appreciated in here and lacking from a lot of other places we write. Take care and you will remain in my prayers."
A client's take on HFP
November 12, 2019
HFP client Mr. M shares his thoughts on our organization:
HFP have been so kind to me and other inmates at the Jackson Correctional Facility.
HFP are there for prisoners that do not have any family support, this organization help everyone that contact them if it is legal aid, help preparing for the parole board, or just someone to talk to Matt and HFP is always there.
HFP is a outstanding organization, and people all around the world should take a look into HFP, and also donate to this perfect cause.
Your donations is really helping prisoners live in the institution comfortable do to the circumstances we are in. We believe in this organization because when we call on HFP they are always there to help us. Thank you HFP for your help we can always count on HFP for help.
Domestic Violence Workshop Comes to Gus Harrison CF
November 7, 2019
The subject of domestic violence hit home for more than two-dozen inmates at Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian. Our correspondent, Ricardo Ferrell, reports that nearly 30 inmates turned out for a workshop conducted by Candy Taulton and Jess Little, legal advocates for the Catherine Cobb Safe House of Lenawee County. The National Lifers chapter had scheduled the event in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. Ricardo said the presenters pointed out that everyone is impacted by domestic violence. He said the pair explained the tactics normally experienced within an intimate partner relationship which often causes a number of things to occur, such as harmful language, intimidation, threats, harassment and physical violence. Said Ferrell: “Let's all remember we can make a difference, and say, ‘I can be the change.’”
Grateful for recognition
November 6, 2019
An inmate battling ADD writes HFP:
"I feel I get discarded a lot.
Like my case that got me here in prison to begin with.
No one seemed to cared to listen, or to know the truth.
I'm not trash and am a person who wants the best of life and wants the help.
I sought it out before prison because I wasn't getting anywhere without medication. I don't like medication but I know I need it for this.
Thank you for treating me as a person Matt."
HFP Blog: One might say that the work of HFP is much like the work of deacons in a church. At least, those are Doug’s thoughts this morning. Read HERE.
Bad math in Lansing (You can help!)
November 5, 2019
Due to some bad math in Lansing, some prisoner educational programming may take the hit. A "fund shift" in the state budget took away $24 million in prisoner education funds this calendar year, with the plan to use $24 million in unspent state funds to make it up. Unfortunately, MDOC officials confirm the unspent state funds account only had about $14 million, forcing the MDOC to cut $10 million while working with state legislators for a way to make up the difference.
Today, we ask you to help. Please contact your legislators and request they fully fund prisoner education without accounting gimmicks or fund shifts, since these programs are among the most effective ways to reduce recidivism, the prison population, and cost of corrections in the long run.
To find your state representative, visit http://house.michigan.gov/. State senators can be found at https://senate.michigan.gov/.
Grateful for guidance
October 31, 2019
Mr. C needed help filling out his commutation, and came to HFP. When he received a new, edited version of his application from HFP's Client Services Specialist Susie Greenbauer, he responded:
"I received the copy of the commutation form on Friday. I'm so thankful for your input and the changes you made. The suggestions you made are valuable and extremely useful... You and HFP staff are valuable and are a blessing to us and especially me. Your support for us and the care you have shown us can not be measured in words, but I want you to know how much you mean to us."
Octrober 29, 2019
A friend of an HFP client writes us:
"I have heard for a few years now that men have seen boxes that say "for institutional use only" (obviously meaning it's really crappy) and even some seeing boxes that have said "not fit for human consumption". The newest one that I heard from men at Coldwater (LCF) is that the state peanut butter jar says "may cause cancer". Someone took the label to the wardens forum and asked them about it. The response was..."it says 'may' cause cancer not 'will' cause cancer." SERIOUSLY?!?!?! It seems as though the situation has gone from ridiculous to dangerous."
Ready for training
October 24, 2019
Mr. R was in a unique situation when he reached out to HFP. He had recently lost a leg, and was worried that would disqualify him from vocational training within the MDOC. HFP contacted MDOC officials, who made sure Mr. R was on their next round of reviews to attend MDOC's Vocational Village. A few weeks later, Mr. R sent us this update:
"good news matt. I have been accepted to CNC vocational. I'll be riding out soon.. thank you so much for your intervention. the work you do and your organization is so appreciated. I thought my life was simply forgot about. I still have people who care about my future."
October 22, 2019
Due to Michigan Freedom of Information Act laws, Mr. A can't file a FOIA request. To say the least, he was pretty grateful when HFP submitted one for him last month:
Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.
Did I forget to say, "thank you"?
I am really grateful that you've gone above and beyond for me. I won't forget it.
Let the music play!
October 15, 2019
Mr. J has been playing piano his whole life. He's 68, and has served over 40 years of a non-parolable life sentence in the MDOC. His keyboard is his lifeblood. So when he moved to a new facility, one that did not allow keyboards (it's up to the warden at each facility), he contacted HFP. We reached out to the warden with a plea to change this policy. It took almost 3 months, but Mr. J finally gave us a good update:
"Hello Matt, aside from an obvious blessing from God, I'd also like to think that "you" played an integral part in the "policy change." The warden has finally approved "keyboards" as acceptable musical instruments; so I just wanted to take the time to personally thank you for all your efforts. We need people and organizations like you. Please continue caring. Thanks again, and God be with you all."
Veterans giving back
October 8, 2019
An HFP client updates us on the Veterans group activities:
"We are (the V.V.A.) making Christmas stockings with wooden toys ( cars, boats, trucks and airplanes ) that we are making and I've got my crochet class making the Christmas stockings I also have some of my guys making necklaces and bracelets for the girls then we will fill the stockings up with candy and cookies what we don't have is someone that would like to receive them. In the past we had a kindergarten class that we donate to here in Jackson but that school has been closed would you find me a group or an organization that could find a good home for them please ask them how many they would like and how many need to be boy stockings an how many need to be girl ones."
If you have any ideas on where this group can give, please contact the HFP office (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A commentary on prison cuisine
October 3, 2019
A client shares his thoughts on the food served in prison:
"Garbage food comes to us from vendors that sell the cheapest and worst they got to the State! So how do we expect our health to get any better when the quality of food is so poor in the proper nutrients to sustain a body? Michigan's choice of a diet for prisoners is the worst in the nation, and for prisoners with life and long indeterminate sentences, their fate in prison is a death sentence! Whoever modeled this system done so in an effort to have it replace the death penalty after it was abolished in the early 1900's and replaced with a form of mercy killings."