HFP Launches 2020 Unball
April 1, 2020
A message from HFP President Matt Tjapkes:
At this time of great concern for all of us, I hope that each of you and your loved ones are in good health. While the world faces this crisis, there are still close to 39,000 women and men in Michigan’s prison with very real needs. This is evidenced by the fact last month we received 1,565 requests for help, nearly 200 more than any previous month in our history.
WE NEED YOUR HELP NOW MORE THAN EVER.
The mothers, fathers, siblings, children, and loved ones in Michigan's prisons are experiencing fear and confusion in addition to acute isolation. In-person visitation to Michigan’s correctional facilities has been suspended. Individual needs continue to rise. A simple three-word message received over the weekend shows the concern: "PLEASE HELP US!!!!"
Here's how you can help! Today, we're launching our third annual Unball. The frivolous and whimsical concept for an Unball has been put aside for this year out of respect for what everyone is going through.
The good news is you still don’t have to buy a dress, rent a tuxedo, do your hair or makeup, or get a sitter. But, for the first time, you can honor the guidelines of our national and state leaders, avoid the crowds, and support critical assistance to our prisoners! Most importantly, your participation will enable HFP staffers to stand in for family members, and just “be there” for prisoners! We'll keep track daily of how many others are not attending the Unball with you!
Tickets are $75 each
(a real bargain considering this year’s needs!)
Sponsor a table to include your friends and family for $500
No donation is too large
Consider including “tips” with baby-sitter, manicure, and hair-cut savings
Don’t wait. Send reservation checks to PO Box 687, Grand Haven, MI 49417 or purchase your tickets HERE.
What COVID 19 means to you: Stay home!
What COVID 19 means to Michigan prisoners: No visits!
What Covid 19 means to HFP: Be there for them!
HFP Blog: Happy Birthday, Maurice!
March 31, 2020
As we end the month, with all that’s going on, we still remember Maurice Carter’s birthday. See today's entry HERE.
COVID-19 Relief Fund: University of Michigan's Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) has set up a relief fund for formerly incarcerated people and families of those incarcerated. To apply for relief, visit https://bit.ly/3bEGrGD
Believe this week
March 30, 2020
"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts."
March 29, 2020
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
HFP Blog: 30 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Michigan prisons. Reduction of the prison population should be considered. Read our thoughts HERE.
2019 Annual Report
March 25, 2020
Humanity for Prisoners has just released our 2019 Annual Report, which can be viewed HERE.
Our thanks goes out to U-M Student Justin Ramirez for all his hard work in helping us put it together!
Improve this week
March 23, 2020
“The days without difficulty are the days you do not improve.”
March 22, 2020
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us."
An open letter from HFP President Matt Tjapkes
March 18, 2020
Greetings from the HFP office! I hope and pray that everyone reading this remains safe and healthy.
I wanted to take a minute to update everyone on HFP's operations while we navigate the Coronavirus crisis. That picture above? That was just last Friday as I spoke to a class at Grand Haven High School. I had three speaking engagements scheduled for this week, all canceled. What a difference a few days makes!
First, we're open! We are going to do everything we can to answer every request that comes in during this time. If you think there's uncertainty in the free world about the coming weeks, you can only imagine the concern of our clients who are locked in facilities with hundreds, if not thousands, of other individuals with nowhere to go.
At the HFP office, we're taking steps to ensure the health of our staff and volunteers. We've closed the office to visitors, including volunteers, and our staff is staggering what days we're in the office to minimize contact. Someone will still be in the office most weekdays.
Due to this decision, we do have to put some limits on certain services. As we've grown, we've become dependent on volunteers to handle certain requests for us. Those services, like finding photos or lost loved ones, or editing commutations, are on hold until at least June 1.
The good news is much of our work can be done through email and remotely. Over 60 emails came in from clients just yesterday, there is plenty of work to be done! Your continued support of HFP will allow us to continue supporting over 4,000 clients in the MDOC during these difficult times. And with your support, we can keep getting letters like we did from Mr. L, who struggled with mobility for months before being given his own wheelchair last week:
"What a relief and stress relief. Thank you again for all that you and your organization has done for me and others."
HFP Blog: Anger
March 17, 2020
Does anger make you angry? Working with prisoners, it’s a topic we deal with. See today’s piece on the HFP blog HERE.
Be healthy this week
March 16, 2020
“Healthy citizens are the greatest asset any country can have.” Winston Churchill
March 15, 2020
"And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction."
EVENT POSTPONED: Tomorrow's Town Hall Meeting on Mental Illness in Prison has been postponed. We will look to reschedule later this year.
Prison Mental Health Forum Monday
March 11, 2020
Humanity for Prisoners President Matt Tjapkes and Michigan Department of Corrections Director Heidi Washington will be among the panelists at a Town Hall meeting next Monday, March 16, at 6:30 p.m. at the Grand Haven Community Center (421 Columbus Ave). The discussion will focus on Mental Illness before, during and after a prison sentence. Other panelists include:
Sheriff Steve Kempker, Ottawa County
Judge Bradley Knoll, Mental Health Court
Dr. Bob Bulten, Psychiatrist
Joe Whalen, Fresh Coast Alliance
Pam Taylor, Returning Citizen
Joshua Bloomberg, Returning Citizen
Lynnette Bloomberg, Family Member
Our thanks to The Momentum Center for Social Engagement in Grand Haven for hosting this event! We look forward to seeing you there.
HFP Blog: And the award goes to...
March 10, 2020
Award Winners! The HFP team! See today's blog HERE.
Face your fears this week
March 9, 2020
“Fear has two meanings: ‘Forget Everything And Run’ or ‘Face Everything And Rise.’ The choice is yours.”
— Zig Ziglar
March 8, 2020
"He must increase; I must decrease."
HFP Blog: The sting of death
March 5, 2020
Unpleasant as the topic may seem, death continues to knock on the door of prisoner advocates. See today’s blog HERE.
In addition, our clients sent this memorial of a friend they recently lost:
In Remembrance of
David K. Hudson-Bey
Our dear brother David K. Hudson-Bey passed away the week of February 16, 2020. David will be dearly missed. Condolences are sent to his family and loved ones. David's legacy and hard work in criminal justice reform and social justice advocacy will not be forgotten. We will keep his legacy alive by continuing his work to change the criminal justice system that kept him for over three decades. David is in Heaven. He had a kind heart and was more than willing to help anyone in need. He had a positive impact on many people on the inside and outside. David was our brother and we will never forget him. God bless David, his family, and his loved ones. You are missed.
Be the hero
March 2, 2020
“Today, instead of looking to the sky and waiting for a pastor or a politician or some invisible force to come in and dramatically beat back the darkness—you wield the brilliant light in your possession. Maybe you’re the hero you’ve been waiting for.”
March 1, 2020
"The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior, who will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love."
HFP Blog: As we exit Black History Month, some final thoughts on our blog HERE.
HFP Blog: Terminally ill still need help
February 28, 2020
Some might think that Michigan has made great strides in assisting prisoners who are terminally ill. Some might question that. Read Doug’s thoughts in today's blog HERE.
Breaking Records Daily!
February 26, 2020
On February 1, 2019, we breathlessly reported that our team responded to 677 contacts in the first month of the year! It was a struggle to stay ahead of all the requests for help, but we made it. Just one year later, on February 1, 2020, we exhaustedly reported that the HFP team responded to 1,374 contacts! More than double, and more than any month in our history. Hats off to our staff and volunteers whose work conveys a message to Michigan prisoners that someone cares!
Do what's right
February 24, 2020
"You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.”
February 23, 2020
"A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of."
HFP - Helping prisoners give back to society!
Febryary 19, 2020
Photo 1: HFP Board Member Judy VanderArk and husband Pete head to Jackson with hundreds if pounds
of yarn. We donate yarn to both Cooper CF and Parnall CF for their hobby-craft programs
Photo 2: Loads are switched, as Pete and Judy then make deliveries of finished products to local area
Photo 3: Crocheted and knitted products by prisoners get delivered to a big shelter in Jackson. From
the men at Parnall, hats, scarves and toys to a women’s and children’s shelter in Jackson. Ten blankets
were delivered to a Veteran’s Home in Grand Rapids!
Work for safety this week
February 17, 2020
“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”
February 16, 2020
"For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Special Commutation Project - Applicants needed!
February 12, 2020
Humanity for Prisoners is thrilled to share we are creating a pro bono project for students at the University of Michigan Law School to assist clients in assembling a commutation application to submit to Governor Whitmer. It will give clients even more access to a dedicated resource and chances for successful outcomes.
Students will be supervised by HFP Vice President and Commutation Specialist, Holly Honig-Josephson, and by a U-M Law School Alumn, Kasia Szymborski, who has been responsible for a number of commutations in New York, including one-third of those granted last year. Students will pair up and work directly with a client in crafting a thoroughly-prepared application. They will submit* the application directly and follow up with the Parole Board as appropriate per situation.
As a starting point, the student group will mostly be focusing on clients whose convictions are related to at least one (or just one) of the following three categories:
To get more information and submit a name for consideration, please contact Holly Honig-Josephson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Submission dates are up to the client. Some individuals may choose to wait until the end of Governor Whitmer’s term grows closer. While we believe there’s nothing to lose in submitting at any time, we also recognize the historical trend is that more commutations are granted toward the end of a governor’s term. Because of this, some individuals may choose to wait until the third or fourth year of her term to send their application in for consideration. If a client chooses to wait, students will get everything prepared and ready to go.
A former client describes the work of HFP
February 11, 2020
Mr. A was recently released from the MDOC. He talks about his experience with HFP:
"My first encounter with Doug and Humanity for Prisoners was at an ethics seminar that we were holding at Kinross Correctional Facility. We were talking about this idea of being there for each other and just doing exactly what Doug talks about doing: being kind. I think what HFP gives more than anything to those who are in prison is: they care. Their default answer is not no. Their default question is: How can I help?"
Show that you care this week
February 10, 2020
“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
February 9, 2020
"Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited."
HFP Blog: No matter the problem, whether in a ditch or whether in a prison, somebody’s gotta help! See today’s entry HERE.
HFP Blog: Time for commutation answers!
February 6, 2020
It’s completely understandable that issues like fixing the roads and preparing a rebuttal to the President’s State of the Union Address have been at the top of the list. But we’re saying that it’s time now for Governor Whitmer to get started on prisoner commutation applications. There’s a serious backlog, and we’re offering to help. See today's blog entry HERE.
MDOC and HFP to be represented in local forum
February 5, 2020
Mental illness before, during and after prison, will be the topic of an upcoming town hall meeting in Grand Haven. The Momentum Center for Social Engagement announced that the event will be held Monday, March 16, 6:30 PM, at the Grand Haven Community Center (421 Columbus Ave.). Among those serving on the panel will be Heidi Washington, Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections. Representing Humanity for Prisoners will be President Matt Tjapkes and Medical Director Dr. Robert Bulten. Save the date! For an event flyer, click HERE.
HFP Blog: When a lawyer can't save you
February 4, 2020
The question: If you didn’t do anything wrong, and if you have the money to pay for a good attorney, how can you still be wrongly accused and still go to prison?
The answer: That’s not how the injustice system works. See Doug’s blog today HERE.
Raise your voice this week
February 3, 2020
“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world...would do this, it would change the earth."
February 2, 2020
“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
HFP Blog - Who's making you mad?
January 31, 2020
Who are those people making you so upset? Doug has some ideas HERE.
Gift received from anonymous donor!
January 30, 2020
Humanity for Prisoners, like many charitable organizations, struggles to make ends meet during the first quarter of the year. Typically, donors give larger amounts at the end of the year, and they seem to take a break at the beginning of a new year. HFP was blessed to receive an anonymous grant of $25,000 through the Barnabas Foundation last week! We praise God for that kind of support, and express our genuine gratitude to the generous donor. With those dollars, we continue to touch the lives of Michigan prisoners at a record-breaking pace!
“Giving is not just about making a donation. It is about making a difference.”
Kathy Calvin, former CEO, United Nations Foundation.
Pride In Holly Day
January 29, 2020
Today we pay tribute to HFP Vice President Holly Honig-Josephson. Back in 2017, while preparing an application on behalf of Joe Johnson, she discovered a case of serious injustice. Two teenagers wanting some pocket change used a pellet gun to hold up an ice cream cart back in 1980. The boys got $27.50, and Joe got a life sentence! Holly and Joe developed a strong friendship, and she pledged to help. In 2018 she persuaded Michigan Parole Board Chairman Michael Eagen to review the case. In 2019 she was at Joe’s side for his Parole Board hearings. Yesterday morning, after serving nearly 40 years, Joe walked out of prison a free man! Holly and her husband Tony were there to greet him, and to take the new parolee into their own home. Our congratulations!
HFP Blog: In recent weeks, Matt and Doug have both been on hand for bear hugs when prisoners walked free after serving long sentences. It never grows old! Read HERE.
Take time to read
January 22, 2020
As a young broadcast journalist, HFP founder Doug Tjapkes won one of the state’s most prestigious awards and one of the nation’s highest awards for his radio editorials. Decades later, he’s still writing 3-minute editorials, and you can read them on the HFP blog: www.humanityforprisoners.blogspot.com. Says one reader: "As a prison wife who frequently takes blows from the system and struggles to old her head up, just knowing you are fighting alongside, a friend in the dark, gives me strength to keep going. I am grateful!" Pastor Nate uses an app to notify him whenever Doug posts something. You can enter your email address in the top right corner of the page to get notifications each time a new entry is posted. 100 of the most popular columns written over the years have been published in a new book "Humanity for Prisoners?"
HFP getting a fast start on MLK week!
January 21, 2020
President Matt Tjapkes was a special guest of Calvin University President Michael LeRoy at a luncheon for ex-convict/author Alice Marie Johnson, following her lecture in the popular Calvin January Series. HFP Director Dr. Michelle Loyd-Paige had the honor of introducing the guest speaker.
Vice President Holly Honig-Josephson participated in an MLK panel discussion at the downtown Grand Rapids Celebration Cinema theater, following a showing of the new Bryan Stevenson film "Just Mercy."
HFP Directors will be manning a booth at the Calvin University Fine Arts Center from 6 to 8:30 this evening for "Path to Justice," a seminar with featured speakers to discuss criminal justice reform.
Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
January 20, 2020
"The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?"
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
January 19, 2020
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant."
1 Cor. 13:4
HFP Blog: The old reporter on our team insists that TV coverage of a released prisoner wasn’t fair. See today's entry HERE.
HFP – Doing what it does best
January 17, 2020
Late Friday, Inmate’s wife:
“My husband is in the Muskegon Correctional Facility. He has been getting open sores on his ankles and shins. He has been in severe pain. How can we get the medical help he needs so that this doesn’t end up killing him in prison?”
First thing Monday, HFP response:
“We have a doctor who happens to make visits to MCF so I'm going to start by seeing if he can make it out to see your husband.”
Late Monday, Inmate’s wife:
“Thank you so much for sending someone to see my husband. The doctor talked to him today. When he told me someone was coming to see him it brought tears to my eyes. Finally, someone is hearing our cries.”
HFP receives GHACF grant!
January 15, 2019
Humanity for Prisoners has received a $4,000 grant from the Technical Assistance Fund of the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation. The announcement was made by HFP President Matt Tjapkes.
Holly Cole, Vice President of Grants and Program for GHACF said the gift is designated to exclusively support the implementation of a donor client relationship management system. Russ Bloem, Board Chairman for HFP, said a CRM was critically needed for the agency’s sustained growth. He said the office team is now handling approximately 1,000 messages from prisoners or their representatives per month.
“We are grateful to the Community Foundation for this financial assistance, and for this demonstration of support for our work,” said Tjapkes.
HFP was founded 19 years ago by Doug Tjapkes, and has been providing practical assistance to thousands of inmates in the state prison system with everyday needs. The office is located in Spring Lake.
Client support kickstarts 2020!
January 14, 2020
What a great way to start the new year, the new decade! Gifts of support from persons behind bars. See today’s blog entry HERE.
Don't forget the small things
January 13, 2020
"For there are many people who can do big things, but there are very few people who will do the small things."
January 12, 2020
"…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another…. And over all these virtues put on love, which bind them all together in perfect unity."
- Colossians 3
HFP receives Loutit Foundation grant
January 9, 2020
The Loutit Foundation, a component fund of the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, has awarded a $23,000 grant to Humanity for Prisoners. The announcement was made by Foundation President Jon Eshleman.
HFP President Matt Tjapkes expressed sincere thanks on behalf of his board of directors for the grant, which represents one annual payment on the organization’s land contract. “It’s more than just a grant,” said Tjapkes. “It underscores the importance of our work in the State of Michigan, and the impact we are making in its prison system.”
Humanity for Prisoners provides assistance to prisoners with non-legal issues and problems when they don’t know where to turn, and responds to approximately 1,000 calls a month.
The Loutit Foundation was created by William R. and Catherine Loutit, and began making grants after their deaths in the early 1960s. They had no children and were the recipients of the estates of his father and grandfather. His grandfather, William R. Loutit, known as Captain Loutit, was one of the founders of Grand Haven.
The Loutit Foundation is known locally for the major projects it has helped fund, particularly the Loutit Library and the Community Center in downtown Grand Haven.
Since its formation, the Loutit Foundation has dispersed more than $11 million.
2020 off to a flying start!
January 8, 2020
Humanity for Prisoners has hit the ground running in 2020! After a record-breaking year that saw our total client list reach approximately 10% of the entire Michigan Department of Corrections population, we've already added 45 clients in the first week of the new year! Your support is what makes this happen. Thank you!
HFP Blog: One of our board members asked our team one day: “How do you get through the day without putting your first through a wall?” Granted, there’s a ton of frustration when you’re trying to help prisoners. But, there are sunny moments. Doug starts the year with some things that make us smile HERE.
Get it done!
January 6, 2020
"This cannot be the year of talking. Of wishing. Of wanting. This has to be the year, you get it done!"
January 5, 2020
"There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off."
All in a day’s work!
January 3, 2020
While most people were watching football games and enjoying food and drink with family and friends, the HFP email inbox continued to fill up:
-Derrick asked us to contact 22 of his friends behind bars who also could use our services
-Jeannie wondered if we could get a new Assistant Attorney General to replace Scott Rothermel in Parole Board Public Hearings
-Eddie complained that a holiday prison concert was abruptly canceled, no reason given
-Jon’s friend can’t see him to help with legal matters, because reinstatement of his visitation rights---scheduled for last July---still hasn’t happened
-Jamie is nearing 70 and has questions about possibly seeking a commutation of his sentence.
In the HFP office, holidays and weekends make little difference. It’s where Michigan prisoners go when they don’t know where to turn.
Explore. Dream. Discover.
January 1, 2020
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
HFP Blog: Will 2020 be Prisoner Awareness Year? How about Prisoner Awareness Decade? Read our Old Year/New Year post HERE.
Find Hope for the New Year
December 30, 2019
“Each year’s regrets are envelopes in which messages of hope are found for the new year.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
December 29, 2019
"I keep my eyes on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken."
The Work of Christmas
December 26, 2019
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among others,
To make music in the heart.
Merry Christmas from HFP
December 25, 2019
“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.”
A gift from Doug
December 24, 2019
Decades before becoming a prisoner advocate, Doug Tjapkes was a radio newsman. For many years, on Christmas Eve, he read one of his favorite pieces, written by the Religion Editor of United Press International. This many years later, at the age of 83, he shares it as his holiday gift to all of our friends. ReadHERE.
Enjoy the Spirit of Christmas this week
December 23, 2019
"Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas."
– Calvin Coolidge
December 22, 2019
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
HFP Blog: Silence is no longer an option, says Doug. See today’s entry HERE.
Remembering Eddie Mae
December 20, 2019
It is with sad hearts that we report former Humanity for Prisoners board member Eddie Mae Ward passed away
a week ago today. Eddie Mae served on HFP's Board of Directors from 2009-2011, and continued to support our
work after her term had passed. She had a heart for prisoners - she lived life as a significant other and mother of
someone incarcerated. Eddie Mae was a pillar in the Muskegon Heights community with a long career as a
teacher in Muskegon Heights Public Schools. She will be dearly missed.
Here is a copy of Eddie Mae's obituary with information on visitation and memorial service:
Mrs. Eddie Mae Ward, 83, made her transition into the loving arms of her Heavenly Father peacefully on
December 13, 2019, at Mercy Health Partners-Mercy Campus in Muskegon, Michigan. Mrs. Ward was well
known in the Muskegon Heights Community as she served as a teacher in the Muskegon Heights Public School
district until her retirement. Celebration of Life Services for Mrs. Ward will be held at 11 AM, Saturday,
December 21, 2019 at Bethesda Baptist Church 575 S. Getty Street Muskegon, Michigan. 49442, with Pastor
Charles Poole , Officiating. A Public Visitation for Mrs. Ward will be held today from 2 to 6 p.m. in the Fountain
Funeral Home Chapel. 1765 Peck Street. Muskegon, Michigan. 4944. Mrs. Ward will be laid to rest in Mona View Cemetery. Please feel free to leave condolences, memories, and pictures on the Fountain Funeral Home website.
A dozen days left to double your gift!
December 19, 2019
It's not too late to have your gift to Humanity for Prisoners doubled heading into the New Year! With a dozen days left, we're hoping for a strong finish as we currently sit 40% of the way to our goal of $50,000 raised.
Your gifts touch lives every day, like the diabetics at Gus Harrison Correctional Facility.
Early this month, HFP got word that as diabetics came to health care for testing, each person grabbed their own test strip out of a container - no hand-washing required beforehand, no gloves. Someone could come straight from the bathroom and reach into the container.
HFP confirmed the dangers of this with a doctor on our advisory panel, then reached out and encouraged the facility to have someone wearing gloves hand out the strips, preventing this unnecessary risk. On Monday, this message arrived:
"I don't know if it was you... but as of last Friday no inmates can stick their finger in the bottle and pull out a sugar strip for the blood sugar meter no more."
Your support makes stories like this possible every day! Click HERE to donate today.
What’s in the brown paper bag?
December 18, 2019
Doug has a holiday gift for all this morning. It’s the copy of a story that arrived in our office back in the days of our infancy. He says that it’s among the stories that shaped who we are and what we are today. You’ve probably read this before, because we’ve shared it before. But take a moment, during the holiday rush, to read an inmate’s account of What’s in the brown paper bag? Read HERE.
Don't turn away this week
December 16, 2019
“Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted, when we tolerate what we know to be wrong, when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy or too frightened, when we fail to speak up and speak out, we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice.” Robert F. Kennedy
December 15, 2019
"A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD"
Isiah 11: 1-2
Ombudsman visits HFP
December 13, 2019
Michigan Legislative Corrections Ombudsman Keith Barber paid a recent visit to our new offices. In a luncheon
session that followed we touched on such important topics as grievances, healthcare and commutations. Keith’s
office was created in 1975, and is responsible for investigating complaints regarding the state prison system.
He and his staff do a great job, and we appreciate working with them!
Pictured from left to right is HFP President Matt Tjapkes, Founder Doug Tjapkes, Client Services Specialist Susie
Greenbauer, and Keith Barber.
HFP Blog: The case for clemency
December 11, 2019
There are too many people in Michigan’s prisons. Conservatives and liberals agree on this point. HFP contends that clemency is one of the ways to remedy this situation. We have many people behind bars who don’t need to be there anymore. It’s costing us a fortune, and it’s depriving them of a few final years in freedom. Governor Whitmer could change this. Read today's blog HERE. https://humanityforprisoners.blogspot.com/2019/12/good-for-oklahoma-now-its-michigans-turn.html
We're 15% of the way there!
December 10, 2019
Thanks to a strong Giving Tuesday, HFP's year-end matching funds campaign is off to a good start! A generous sponsor has offered to match up to $50,000 in year-end contributions to HFP, and we need YOU to help us maximize this gift! As of today, we're 15% of the way to our goal. Your gift today can touch a life like Mrs. C, who was struggling to find help for her incarcerated husband before she found HFP:
"My husband emailed me from Cooper Street CF more happy then I have seen him in a long time. It was because he said Matt from HFP had contacted him and he finally felt something was going to become of it. I cried until I had no tears left. I wanted to thank HFP. You just don't know what this means to my husband and myself. We had nowhere else to turn. I've been praying and believing God for a break through. I had to message you to say I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I don't have much but I want to donate. My husband is not the only prisoner in need of your services. There's many. They need organizations such as yours. Please know how important you are. "
Share responsibility this week
December 9, 2019
“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”
―Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers)
December 8, 2019
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
HFP Blog: Prisoner medical co-pay must end!
December 5, 2019
Co-pay for Michigan prisoners who need medical attention is a bad idea, and it’s time to speak up. See today’s piece HERE. https://humanityforprisoners.blogspot.com/2019/12/no-more-talk-about-co-pay-its-time-for.html
Unlock the fullness of life this week
December 2, 2019
"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend."
December 1, 2019
"In all things give thanks."
1 Thessalonians 5:18
A Double Recipe for Double the Joy
Double your support of Michigan’s imprisoned with Humanity for Prisoners today!
November 27, 2019
This holiday season, you can create DOUBLE the impact for DOUBLE the people in need by giving to Humanity for Prisoners! A generous donor has just agreed to gift $1 for every dollar donated up to $50,000 through the end of 2019, which means your gift can DOUBLE the impact HFP makes in the lives of thousands of prisoners!
LET’S SPREAD HUMANITY! DONATE TODAY
If we match every dollar, for a total of $100,000, this will allow HFP to answer over 4,000 calls for assistance and receive responses like this: “Your organization came into my life when all hope was gone. You are saving lives!”
As a friend of Humanity for Prisoners you are already aware that our clients have nowhere else to turn, have faced ordeals often diminishing their sense of humanity, and that your support helps us to provide them with the ability to be heard, acknowledged, and treated with compassion. Now your gift has double the impact for our program!
Our office needs $25,000 each month to continue responding to over 1,000 requests per month. Your donation to Humanity for Prisoners allows us to dramatically change lives for the better. Your support makes this possible.
There are many worthwhile organizations looking for your support at this time of year - we hope that you will make double the positive impact with a gift to Humanity for Prisoners. Your support of our mission works very directly in improving the lives that are most marginalized and forgotten. And if you have a corporate match through your company, please add us to triple the effect of your gift!
Please click here to make a donation today!
Peace and all the best to you and yours,
The Humanity for Prisoners Team
P.S. Please share this message with the people in your life who share our values. We need a broad community of support to help the men and women often forgotten in Michigan’s prison system.
HFP Blog: On Thanksgiving Eve, Doug’s thoughts in our annual holiday post: Blessed Thanksgiving to you. And that’s no baloney!
The beauty of HFP
November 26, 2019
“One of the most beautiful things about HFP is that they support people because they are people, because they recognize the dignity and humanity which each person has, no matter how broken their life has become."
The Rev. Dr. Jared Kramer, Nov. 6 edition of the Grand Haven Tribune
Be a leader this week
November 25, 2019
“Never let yourself be persuaded that any one Great Man, any one leader, is necessary to the salvation of America. When America consists of one leader and 158 million followers, it will no longer be America.”
― Dwight D. Eisenhower
November 24, 2019
"God thunders wondrously with his voice;
he does great things that we cannot comprehend."
HFP Blog: Can transfers be handled better?
November 22, 2019
Day after day, week after week, friends and family members complain to HFP about prisoner transfers. Inmates go so far away that visits are almost impossible. Can that system be improved? We think so. Read Doug's thoughts HERE.
Stand Courageously this Week
November 18, 2019
"Standing courageously for an unpopular opinion isn't easy, but the rewards of standing courageously for the truth will last forever."
November 17, 2019
"The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy."
HFP Blog: Death Row Memories
November 15, 2019
The news that a vigil was held last night in front of the US Supreme Court building in Washington DC, hoping to delay a Texas execution, brought back memories for Doug. In 2007 he went to death row in Texas, and was there for the execution of a client and friend. Read the latest blog entry HERE.
RIP, Governor Bill
November 14, 2019
Michiganders were saddened by the passing of one of the state’s most popular governors recently, William "Bill" Milliken. HFP founder Doug Tjapkes remembers the day that he and the governor sat in the front row of a public hearing together, both hoping to persuade the Parole Board to free a deserving woman. That started a friendship that lasted until the governor’s passing.
Gov. Milliken had a heart for prisoners, and expressed remorse later in life that he didn't grant more commutations during his Governorship. He was so impressed with our work that he gave Doug an undated later to use, when and as often as necessary, to raise financial support. And from that day on, he personally supported HFP. The letter dates back to when Doug was a one-man show, but the words still ring true today: (click HERE for PDF)
I want to tell you of a friend from Grand Haven who is doing such remarkable work with prisoners – many of whom have been unjustly or wrongfully imprisoned – that I am hopefully you may wish to begin giving your support to him and his work.
His name is Doug Tjapkes. He is a former broadcast journalist and a former small radio station owner. More importantly, he is a fine human being. He is operating a largely volunteer group, HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS. Doug’s efforts have been tireless, and the expenses for him to travel from his home to so man of Michigan’s prisoners, to accompany prisoners on trips before the Parole Board, and to see their freedom if they are fortunate enough to win it, grows steadily. Many of their stories are heart-wrenching and tragic. I and several others have made contributions to assist him in his outstanding efforts. He has worked on wrongful convictions, paroles and commutations, medical care, and their specialized needs and, hopefully, re-entry into society.
Doug’s involvement has grown because the need so outweighs the resources to finance the project. The financial need is becoming greater all the time, and I am please to report this to you, as it means that the word of his work is being better known and the need for assistance even greater.
I am confident that any financial assistance you might feel you wish to give would help enormously in the good work he is doing.
I would be most grateful to you for your consideration.
William G. Milliken
Alex Kotlowitz's thoughts on HFP
November 13, 2019
Well-known Chicago author and journalist Alex Kotlowitz first met Doug back in the 1990s, as he fought for Maurice Carter’s freedom. Recently Alex visited Grand Haven to relive some of those memories and to participate in an HFP-sponsored community event. We hope to post a video of his entire speech on our web site, but for now, please take 4-minutes to hear what Alex had to say about Humanity for Prisoners: https://youtu.be/bmI224egrdo
Recognizing Veterans this week
November 11, 2019
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
John F. Kennedy
Happy Birthday: We wish HFP founder Doug Tjapkes a happy 83rd birthday today!
November 10, 2019
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
HFP Blog: For gay and transgender people, things aren’t easy in society. And it gets much worse in prison. We’re here for them. See Doug’s comments HERE.
Speak up this week
November 4, 2019
"You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say."
November 3, 2019
"For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift."
HFP Blog: It can happen to you!
November 1, 2019
It’s something that always happens to the other guy: wrongful convictions. Wrong! See Doug’s comments this morning on the HFP blog HERE.
Prisoner Awareness Day this Sunday
October 30, 2019
Sunday, November 3, has been designated Prisoner Awareness Day at Ferrysburg Community Church, 17785 Mohawk Drive, Spring Lake. Dr. John Rottman of Calvin Seminary will be guest speaker at the Adult Education Class, beginning at 9:15, to discuss the Calvin Prison Initiative program. Dr. Rottman, also a board member of HFP, will be the guest preacher for the 10:30 worship service. HFP founder Doug Tjapkes will be introducing a parolee who is free today thanks to HFP efforts. Everyone invited. And please consider a similar event in YOUR church. We’ll help!
Tell the truth this week
October 28, 2019
"He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world's believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions.."
October 27, 2019
"But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?"
I John 3:17
HFP Blog: Honoring Maurice
October 25, 2019
It was just 15 years ago that we said goodbye to Maurice Carter. We think he’d be pleased with today’s version of his dream! See Doug's latest blog HERE.
Sweet Freedom Legacy Circle
October 23, 2019
Last Thursday at the Alex Kotlowitz event, HFP's Chairman of the Board of Directors, Russ Bloem, introduced the Sweet Freedom Legacy Circle. This project is established to acknowledge and thank those friends and supporters who have committed to carrying forward the Humanity for Prisoners mission through their planned gifts and to encourage and inspire others to do the same. The details:
Ensuring the future
With compassion for Michigan’s imprisoned, Humanity for Prisoners provides, promotes and ensures—with strategic partnerships— personalized, problem-solving services for incarcerated persons in order to alleviate suffering beyond the just administration of their sentences.
The Sweet Freedom Legacy Circle was established in 2019 to acknowledge and thank those friends and supporters who have committed to carrying forward the Humanity for Prisoners mission through their planned gifts and to encourage and inspire others to do the same.
Honoring the founders
Doug Tjapkes formed the organization in 2001 based on a dream of his best friend, Maurice Carter, who had been behind bars for 29 years for a crime he did not commit. It was Maurice’s goal to convert this negative into a positive and serve as an advocate for all prisoners with special needs. The two of them planned to work together upon his release from prison. While Maurice passed away soon after his release, Doug met this challenge and founded HFP.
Doug authored a book telling of his ten-year relationship with Maurice and their epic battle for justice entitled, Sweet Freedom.
As a member of the Sweet Freedom Legacy Circle you will receive:
• an autographed copy of Sweet Freedom
• recognition in our newsletter and on our website (optional)
• VIP invitations to all HFP events, including an annual membership celebration
Here is how you join!
• Arrange for a gift
• Notify us of your plans by completing and returning the form HERE
• We will follow up to confirm your intentions.
… or request more information by contacting the Humanity for Prisoners office at
616-935-0075 or email@example.com.
Turn toward the good this week
October 21, 2019
“To individuals and to nations both, Jesus says the same thing. Turn away from madness, cruelty, shallowness, blindness. Turn toward that tolerance, compassion, sanity, hope, justice that we all have in us at our best."
HFP Blog: Redemption - A word we like to hear on Sunday, but not very much on Monday! Doug standing up once again for the “little guy.” Read HERE.
October 20, 2019
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
What a night!
October 18, 2019
Guests packed the room at St. Patrick's Church in Grand Haven last night to welcome author Alex Kotlowitz
to West Michigan. Alex spoke about sharing the stories of those forgotten by society, and the lessons he's
learned along the way.
In addition, HFP made two major announcements. We introduced the Sweet Freedom Legacy Circle, a
planned giving program that will help ensure the work of HFP continues on for years to come. Also,
long-time supporters Peter and Judy VanderArk were honored with the Maurice H. Carter Humanitarian
Award given to our volunteers of the year!
We thank everyone who came out to this special evening! A special thanks also to our friend Bill Klouw for
taking the pictures from the night's events.
See you tonight!
October 17, 2019
It's our biggest event of the year, and everyone here at Humanity for Prisoners invites you to join us as we welcome Alex Kotlowitz to town. The doors open at 6:30 at St. Patrick-St.Anthony Parish on the corner of Fulton and US 31 in Grand Haven, with the event starting at 7.
Says Alex: "There's something exhilarating about telling stories that haven't been shared before and haven't been told publicly before. The last thing I want to be doing is telling stories other people have already told."
Come hear the stories tonight. If you don't have a ticket, they will be available at the door. We look forward to seeing you there!
Forgive this week
October 14, 2019
“In a nation that likes to see itself as forgiving, we are mulishly unforgiving of those who have committed a felony...”
― Alex Kotlowitz
October 13, 2019
"Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends."
HFP Blog: HFP client Joe Johnson’s Public Hearing before the Michigan Parole Board went quite well Thursday. Doug, Matt and Holly were there to support him. At the end, though, the Assistant Attorney General tried to rain on the parade. Read Doug comments HERE.
Innocence Project Leader Added to HFP Board
October 9. 2019
Marla Mitchell-Cichon, Director of the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project in Lansing, has been appointed to a three-year term on the Humanity for Prisoners Board of Directors. The announcement was made today by board chairman Russ Bloem.
Professor Mitchell-Cichon began her teaching career in 1986 at the University of Akron, and joined WMU-Cooley Law School in
The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project is one of two such projects in the state. It works to free innocent Michigan prisoners through
the use of DNA testing. In 2006, Professor Mitchell-Cichon received the Justice for All Award from the Criminal Defense Attorneys
of Michigan (CDAM) and in 2014 the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project received the Outstanding Community Contribution award from the WMU-Cooley Student Bar Association.
Professor Mitchell-Cichon works closely with the Access to Justice Clinic (Grand Rapids campus), a clinic she helped to develop. She has extensive practice experience in criminal and poverty law. Her litigation experience includes cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the Ohio Supreme Court, the Michigan Supreme Court and trial and appellate courts in both Ohio and Michigan. She also works on legislative reform to improve the criminal justice system.
“It’s interesting to note,” said Bloem, “that HFP’s roots are in a wrongful conviction. It was our founder, Doug Tjapkes’ work to free Maurice Carter, an innocent Michigan prisoner, that led to the establishment of this organization. With Marla’s expertise and experience, her input to our board and our daily operations will be exceptional.”
Humanity for Prisoners is a prisoner advocacy agency based in Spring Lake.
Let go this week
October 7, 2019
"Learn this from me. Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves."
HFP Blog: The Maurice Carter story was told in a new and exciting venue over the weekend! Read Doug’s comments this morning HERE.
"Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools."
Play about HFP founders goes to Atlanta!
October 2, 2019
Today is International Wrongful Conviction Day. In conjunction with that, we are pleased to announce that a staged reading of the play JUSTICE FOR MAURICE HENRY CARTER will be presented in Atlanta this week.
The performance is part of the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival’s Staged Reading Series. The play, by Canadians Donald Molnar and Alicia Payne, is based on the true story of the enduring friendship between the wrongly convicted Maurice Carter who spent 29 years in prison, and his friend Doug Tjapkes, of Spring Lake.
The playwrights are from Toronto, and the host of the performance in is Nadia Theodor, the Consul General of Canada in Atlanta.
Doug is the founder of Humanity for Prisoners, a prisoner advocacy agency based in Spring Lake. He will be an honored guest at the performance in Atlanta, and will participate in an audience feed-back following the presentation.
HFP sets new record!
October 1, 2019
The month of September brought a record number of requests for assistance to the Humanity for Prisoners office. A total of 990 requests came in, breaking the previous record (set in August) of 949. Before August, the most requests HFP had ever received in a month was 710.
"I think it's safe to say the secret is out," HFP President Matt Tjapkes said. "It's a continued testament to the work we're doing, including all the help from staff and our expert panel of volunteers."
HFP is also just 30 requests away from setting a new mark for most contacts in a year. We thank all of you for your continued support as we touch a record number of lives each month!
HFP Blog: One of the nation’s finest athletes has taken a year off to help a wrongly convicted friend. A major story on network news these days. Friends of HFP are drawing parallels between that story and the Maurice Carter/Doug Tjapkes saga. As we approach International Wrongful Conviction Day, Doug shares his thoughts HERE.