COs weaponize COVID
May 20, 2020
A client reports on this recent interaction:
"The anxiety level is at an all-time high on both sides. Officers are refusing to come to work. Inmates family members and friends are dying.
"I recently overheard another officer tell an inmate, 'If I catch the virus I'm definitely bringing it in here to kill off all you bastards. If I'm going to die none of you deserve to live.'"
Credit where credit is due
May 19, 2020
From an inmate at Saginaw CF:
"This morning we went on lockdown so that everyone at this facility could be COVID tested. I am way, way impressed as to how well it was put together and implemented. The National Guard members were fully suited and even the staff here were on their P's & Q's to ensure things ran smoothly. The young Guardsman told me there'd be a bit of discomfort as he had me lean my head back. Well, I'm here to tell you, by the time he'd started the second swish in what felt like the back of my skull, I had tears rolling down my cheeks and an urge to sneeze. However, I still thanked him for his service. We won't know the results for up to a week. I'd be surprised if we have any positive cases here. The warden's done a great job ensuring everyone complies with things like masks, social distancing, and hand washing. Granted, all the soap and sanitizer dispensers he's had put up around the place don't mean a thing for those who choose to be disobedient, but at least in here the guards can make a person follow the guidelines."
When prisoners care about the care-givers!
May 15, 2020
Our Susie received this message:
"Just a note to say thank you. I understand you are very limited in what you can do. I really appreciate you for being that friend and being someone who cares. It must be very difficult to want to help but limited in what you can do. Susie, I'm always here for you if you need to talk, because our world is going through hard trying times. We all need to talk to someone to help us get through hard trying times. You guys are suffering too. You stand up for so many people and you try to help so many people. I appreciate you and please keep up the good work. I'll always support you because you are doing the work of God. My prayers are with you."
TP shortage hits Saginaw CF
May 14, 2020
A client from Saginaw Correctional Facility writes:
"Toilet paper shortage has now hit us. We received a single roll, unwrapped, with all the tenderness of tree bark. It's a good thing I'm a big believer in the Boy Scouts' creed of Be Prepared!, as I used some of my gift money to buy four extra rolls of TP from our store. I will still need to be frugal with its use as there's no word on whether we'll be issued more. So, this means having to go "bare back" on the toilet seat for the first time in at least twenty years. My routine is to wash off the seat, build at least a 2-layer bird's nest of TP, and then wrap the handle. Now? I'm using liquefied apple shampoo and paper toweling, but even though I know it's clean, it still creeps me out."
The wrong test!?
May 9, 2020
A client at Cotton CF writes:
"Today, my ex bunky from my first time in D unit was brought over from C unit. He said he informed staff that he wasn't feeling right. He said they re-tested him and it showed negative. They let him back out into population. They soon came back and said he was positive. They read the wrong test."
Waiting for Lansing...
May 7, 2020
Our friend Mr. J shares a thought:
"Are Michigan's elected officials and the MDOC willing to save lives or are they going to sit by idly and watch the fatality rate in prison rise daily? I'm pretty sure sitting by idly watching people die in prison will not sit well with many voters across the state who have loved ones inside the prison system."
COVID victims have names
May 6, 2020
Day after day we hear startling statistics as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the same in our office, as we receive the daily reports from the Michigan Department of Corrections. It’s important to remember that there are names attached to those numbers. Today, we share just a few of those names, to make it a bit more personal. The Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater houses a lot of older guys, many of them in poor health. The department reports that all 1400+ inmates have been tested, and about 800 tested positive. So far there have been 15 deaths at Lakeland CF, and five of them were clients of HFP. Our team extends condolences to the families and friends of Dave Harris, Richard Palombo, David Haney, Michael Weaver and William Drew. Average age of these guys was 67. They had served a total of 160 years behind bars.
HFP Blog: While Wendy’s customers are asking, “Where’s the beef,” Doug is asking, “Where’s the grief?” Read HERE.
Another COVID story
April 30. 2020
A client writes from Saginaw CF:
"COVID just gets more "real" all the time. The level-IV guy who was moved to our wing last week from 500 Unit after they had their first positive case was taken to isolation earlier today, along with his bunkie, and their room top locked. Most guys are freaking out because this clown spent much of his time on the phone with his mask off, or hanging out in the hallway talking to his homeboys, again without his mask on. Twice I ended up in the shower area with him, and that freaks me out because I've seen on CNN how COVID can be spread just by breathing. Granted, he and I had nothing to say to one another, but the ventilation in the shower barely removes steam. This is not a pleasant way to kick start a weekend that had been otherwise quite nice as the sun poked out from behind the clouds and the temps warmed up."
April 24, 2020
Last night, the Michigan Department of Corrections announced three more COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total to 28. Our client Mr. A raises this point:
"If they still had the death penalty in Michigan and executed two prisoners a day it would be a public uproar. They just letting us die like flies."
April 23, 2020
Why are prisoners so afraid? Here’s how a client at Gus Harrison CF in Adrian puts it:
"I fear for my life because there have been officers who have made the statement, that if they were to contract the virus they were going to give it to us. I fear losing a loved one; I fear the overseers contracting the disease and intentionally spreading it to those of us on the inside; I fear that my underlying illness will prevent me from fighting off the virus, if I were to contract it; and I fear the impact that the coronavirus is having on the Black and Brown community. Nevertheless, my worse fear is dying in prison and now with this deadly disease in such close proximity to me, I am literally staring at death."
HFP Blog: Doug’s point this morning: It’s clearly established that God listens, and it’s very apparent that the Governor does not. Read HERE.
COVID-19 Supply Shortage
April 21, 2020
An update from a frustrated client:
"Whatever you read about the MDOC facilities supplying us with extra soap, sanitizer, and toilet paper…well, that’s all "Crap” because we're out of everything. So if the virus hits here, we're going to be totally screwed. Now they do have the sanitizer pumps on the walls but they’re empty and have been for a long time."
Don't believe what you read!
April 17, 2020
From a client at Parnall CF:
"I and three other inmates are the ones who are tasked with cleaning the cells of those who test positive once they are vacated. We are still wearing cloth facemasks even though we feed and take care of the needs of those in quarantine, but staff are given the n95 masks. We were provided with some protective wear, but it was a week and a half after the outbreak. We have been on the front line since day one of the outbreak, but no one knows about us, except our families and now you. The nursing staff are in our unit daily and there has been no inquiries on our health or wellbeing. The truth of the matter is, if we didn't do the work, no one else would. I do it because it keeps others safe. So, this is the truth that needs to be put out there. Thank you for your time."
Ray of Sunshine
April 16, 2020
Message from a client at WHV:
"I wanted to share a special moment in these trying days. Right now our officers are working double after double. Their work load has tripled, while their sleep time has depleted. We are seeing the same officers day after day, shift after shift. Today I watched one awesome officer who has been here more than home, take the time to be with an inmate currently in a trying situation. This officer wanted to make sure she was OK, took time from her lunch break to make sure the inmate was able to shower, brush her teeth and have a moment out of her cell while everyone else was in theirs. She talked to her, and made her feelings valid. In moments like this we see that there really are some humans wearing black and gray among us. During these difficult times it’s easy to get tied up in negativity. Seeing that today made me realize what the staff at WHV is doing for us and the risks they take every day. Please make sure my message gets forwarded to the warden, just so he knows his efforts have not gone unnoticed, nor the efforts of his staff. And thank you, at HFP, for all that you do!"
April 15, 2020
From the Pen of our friend Troy Chapman:
"If you push someone in front of a speeding car, or block them from getting out of its path, and they get run over and die, did you or the driver of the car kill them? Anyone with common sense knows that the person who intentionally blocks another from saving him- or herself is the guilty party, guilty in fact, of murder. The speeding car is just the weapon used. So why does society and the American legal system expect us to abandon this common sense when it comes to the deaths of what may be hundreds or even thousands of prisoners who are being held in the path of Covid-19? They want to say, "We didn't kill them, the virus did," but is that true?"
HFP Blog: If you’ve been hearing on TV news that “About 200 prisoners per week are leaving lockup as the Michigan Department of Corrections tries to walk the fine line between public and prisoner safety,” you might like to know what’s really going on. Read Doug’s response to TV coverage, along with what’s actually happening, on our blog HERE.
April 14, 2020
Michigan Public Radio has published this report from an inmate at Chippewa CF in the U.P.
"Well today an officer named [name redacted] came in and he tells us 'no, I don’t care what they said, you’re not using the bleach to clean with.' He took all of it and dumped it down the drain, and then smashed everyone of the bottles and threw them into the trash can. Then they also got us wipes to clean the phones after every use like the governor says. But he says 'no we are not allowed to use them,' (and that) he hopes we all catch the virus and die. They are taking our toilet paper and smuggling it home, and not giving us our allotted amounts. It’s getting bad."
It's going to get worse!
April 9. 2020
Chilling words from an HFP client:
"Inmates have stopped reporting their symptoms because not only do they get packed up and moved into isolation, but so do their roommates. Those testing positive are then being told not to get out of bed except to use the bathroom, waiting days to take showers, kept from contacting their families, and being treated with Tylenol. Knowing this, guys are trying to hide their illness until it's so severe they can't move. The number actually infected could be double what's being reported, and is set to explode over the next two weeks."
Flatten the curve
April 7, 2020
HFP client Mr. R it sees room for improvement as MDOC tries to prevent COVID-19 from entering facilities:
"It's apparent that both the director and governor are of the mistaken belief that these GED and pre-release programs remain mandatory for parole. A simple variance can be put in place to make this a parole condition once one is paroled. Having these GED teachers, school secretaries and principal come in and out of the facility greatly increases the introduction of this dreaded virus to this facility. Also, why do both the rec and special acts directors keep coming in? All the programs in these areas are not active. :/"
HFP Blog: Granted, hindsight is always 20/20, but MI really could have started on the release of deserving prisoners before this virus crisis. Some observations on our blog HERE.
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/.