Start the Week with Courage
July 15, 2019
“True courage is cool and calm. The bravest of men have the least of a brutal, bullying insolence, and in the very time of danger are found the most serene and free.”
Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury
July 14, 2019
"For whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it."
1 Peter 3:10-11
HFP Blog: What kind of gospel is that?
July 12, 2019
So, where should the church be In all of these social controversies? Should the church take a stand, or should the church stay out of it? Read Doug’s thoughts in today’s blog entry HERE.
330 Lives Touched by You!
July 10, 2019
The first half of 2019 saw HFP break records again for the number clients served. HFP's Client Services Specialist Susie Greenbauer reports that through June 30, HFP has helped 330 new clients this year, in addition to the 2,000+ on our active list. In February, HFP set a new monthly record with 710 requests for assistance.
Your support is making a difference in these lives! Clients are getting medical assistance, much-needed legal documents, connecting with lost friends and family and much more, all thanks to your partnership with HFP.
HFP Blog: Black & White = Red?
July 9, 2019
Did a weekend TV interview with Bryan Stevenson stir your emotions? Read how it affected Doug HERE.
Starting the Week with Humility
July 8, 2019
"I believe the first test of a truly great man is in his humility."
HFP Blog: How much money did you spend on your 4th of July picnic? Let’s compare that with how much the State of Michigan spends on 3 meals a day for our prisoners HERE.
July 7, 2019
"Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
Happy Independence Day from HFP
July 4, 2019
“God did not burden the United States with a diversity of backgrounds, ideals and religions, he BLESSED America with them… and we in our diversity and differences are all in this together.”
~ Rep. Emanuel Cleaver
HFP Blog: No opinions on this Fourth of July…just some ideas for serious thinking! Read the latest entry HERE.
Show allegiance this week
July 1, 2019
“Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance. It is also owed to justice and to humanity. Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong."
June 30, 2019
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
HFP Blog: When non-religious organizations do work that is Christ-like. Some thoughts from HFP founder Doug Tjapkes HERE.
NLA rally this fall
June 28, 2019
The National Lifers of America, Inc., in conjunction with other organizations, is sponsoring a Rally for Lifer Law, Prison and Criminal justice Reform at the State Capitol on Thursday October 10, 2019, from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM.
The Michigan the prison system is undergirded by a thirty-year era of get tough on crime and offenders policies that have fostered high recidivism rates, overcrowded prisons, and a 2 billion annual corrections budget. Now is the time for Michigan citizens to let their voices be heard. We can make changes and there is power in numbers. So please come join us as we share with lawmakers sensible and safe solutions to prison and criminal justice reform.
A decent and free society, founded in respect for the individual, ought not run a prison system with a sign at the entrance for inmates saying, "Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here."
If you would like to register to participate in the Rally, want to volunteer, make a donation, or be a speaker at the rally, please call 586-741-1918.
Donations cane be made to:
F.I.N.D., Inc. c/o NLA Rally
P.0. Box 37872, Oak Park, MI 48235
Pure Word Community Development, c/o NLA Rally
20011 Grand River, Detroit, MI 48219
Bus and/or Van Seating is Limited. Please call for seat reservations before September 9, 2019.
Starting the Week with Mark Hatfield
June 24, 2019
“We stand by as children starve by the millions because we lack the will to end hunger. But we have found the will to develop missiles capable of flying over the polar cap and landing within a few hundred feet of their target. This is not innovation. It is a profound distortion of humanity’s purpose on earth.”
~ Senator Mark Hatfield
June 23, 2019
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."
HFP Blog on False Confessions
June 21, 2019
The President’s stance on false confessions isn’t helping our cause, says Doug. Read the latest blog entry HERE.
Stand tall this week
June 17, 2019
"No man stands taller than when he stoops to help a child."
- Abraham Lincoln
Father's Day Verse
June 16, 2019
"The righteous man walks with integrity; blessed are his children after him."
June 10, 2019
"Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough."
-Franklin D. Roosevelt
June 9, 2019
"Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."
2 Corinthians 9:7
HFP Blog: "Jesus hovers above your door"
June 7, 2019
Our good friend Mitch Mackay, elderly and ailing, was unable to make the trip downstate from Each Jordan this week. But he had this to say about our open house event: "I have already been there in my mind’s eye, stood in awe at the transfiguration, the compassion, the instilling of empathy for all regardless cost and funding. Jesus hovers above your door."
And that led to our newest post HERE.
Thanks for visiting!
June 6, 2019
Humanity for Prisoners welcomed dozens of guests to our new office over the last two days, and we want to say
thank you for all who were able to make it out! It was a wonderful opportunity for us to share not only the new
office, but to give our supporters an idea of where the organization is headed and what everyone can do to help
us get there!
If you were unable to make the event but still want to check out the office some time, just email Matt at
email@example.com or give us a call, we'll be happy to give out a personal tour!
Our special thanks to Bill Klouw for taking some pictures for us as well, including the picture above. Watch our
Facebook page for more pictures in the days to come.
HFP Blog: Welcome!
June 4, 2019
We welcome you to our new digs, and love to tell our story! See Doug’s blog today HERE.
Recognize Humanity this Week
June 3, 2019
"All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others."
June 2, 2019
"Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."
HFP helps prisoners “give back”
May 29, 2019
Humanity for Prisoners has received a special “thank you” from a group of prisoners at the Macomb Correctional Facility in New Haven. A delightful assortment of crocheted stuffed animals arrived from members of the Teddy Bear Project.
Ellen Pach, sponsor of the project, said that gift was to especially thank HFP Board Member Judy
VanderArk, and her husband Pete, who have coordinated our yarn project for years. They work with
volunteers to collect unused spools of yarn from a carpet factory, and then see that it gets delivered
to various state prisons. Thousands of pounds of yarn, valued at thousands of dollars, have been
delivered to prison hobby-craft programs over the years.
Said Ms. Pach: “We currently have approximately 15 prisoners who sew and crochet every Thursday
afternoon. We create children’s blankets & quilts, hats & scarves, and stuffed animals. The items are
then delivered to many organizations such as: Detroit Rescue Mission, Beaumont Hospital, Turning
Point Shelter, Children’s Hospital, first responders, and a camp for children affected by AIDS. Our men take great pride in their work and are very grateful to be able to ‘give back.’”
Ms. Pach said the program continues thanks to donations like that of HFP.
HFP Blog: Governor Whitmer recently signed a series of bills that will help elderly and ailing prisoners get a parole. Did HFP have anything to do with that? Some think so. See today’s post HERE.
Starting the Week with Gratitude
May 27, 2019
"Ceremonies are important. But our gratitude has to be more than visits to the troops, and once-a-year Memorial Day ceremonies. We honor the dead best by treating the living well."
Jennifer M. Granholm
HFP Blog: There are more than 2,200 military veterans in the Michigan prison system. HFP pays tribute to those vets today, as well as the MDOC. Read the latest entry HERE.
May 26, 2019
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
Open House June 5th
May 15, 2019
Humanity for Prisoners welcomes everyone to come check out our new office on Wednesday, June 5th, from 5 to 7 p.m. Our office is located at 14998 Cleveland St., Unit D, in Spring Lake.
This Open House is for anyone and everyone who is interested in the work of HFP. We'll have refreshments, and you'll have a chance to meet the staff and tour our new work space.
Please mark your calendars! We look forward to seeing you there.
Thanking Mom this week
May 13, 2019
"All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."
May 12, 2019
Mother's Day Verse
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
HFP Blog: Mother’s Day isn’t the happiest day behind bars. See today’s blog HERE.
Blessing the new building!
May 10, 2019
At a recent dedication of our new office building, the Board of Directors offered this prayer:
God of the forgotten, we pray that you will make this a space where people are remembered.
God of hope, we pray that you will make this space a light for those waiting in the darkness of
despair. God of justice, make this space a reservoir of restoration for those who have been
God of power and might, protect those who labor here for justice. Encourage them in the face
of indifference and injustice. Remind them that even when the wrong seems oft so strong, you
are the ruler yet.
We dedicate this space to the coming of your perfect kingdom. We commit this space toward
the day when justice rolls on like a river, and righteousness like a never-failing stream. May
compassion flow from this space into every prison cell, into the heart of every prisoner and
prison staff member.
Come and fill this space for your glory and for the restoration of your world. Bring provision, wisdom, courage, energy, and love, which binds them all together perfectly.
We pray this in the name of the one who was wrongly convicted and yet conquered injustice.
Our thanks to Rev. Nate Visker of Ferrysburg Community Church, who wrote this prayer!
Do something this week
May 6, 2019
Do something this week
"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 safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.”
– Mark Twain
May 5, 2019
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
HFP Blog: Joe wasn’t happy with us, but even then, we’ll be here for him! Read the latest entry HERE.
Local Media Highlights HFP
April 30, 2019
Two local media outlets have taken notice of HFP's recent move to name Matt Tjapkes as President and CEO.
The Grand Haven Tribune posted THIS article on Saturday about HFP's recent announcement. Our thanks to the Tribune for their continued coverage of HFP's work!
Also, this morning, WGHN Radio 92.1 FM in Grand Haven welcomes Matt on the air around 9:35 with morning show host John Roberts to talk about the new role, the new office, and much more. To listen live to this interview, visit WGHN.com and click on the Listen Live link.
Starting the Week with Craig Lounsbrough
April 29, 2019
“Easter recognizes that I am living in a prison of my own making, and that God is in the demolition business.”
― Craig D Lounsbrough
HFP Blog: Matt, our new CEO, is a winner…but chances are, he won’t be an award winner. Read his dad’s thoughts this morning HERE.
April 28, 2019
"With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all."
New HFP Video
April 24, 2019
For over a decade, Humanity for Prisoners Founder Doug Tjapkes assisted James Hicks in his quest for freedom after government officials reneged on an agreement of a reduced sentence in exchange for Hicks' testimony. Recently freed through a commutation, Hicks shares his story of how HFP has impacted his life. Watch the latest video HERE.
HFP Blog: Is HFP in good hands? Read Doug’s thoughts in his latest blog post HERE.
HFP has a new President!
April 23, 2019
Matt Tjapkes has been named the new President and CEO of Humanity for Prisoners, the organization announced today. His appointment was made official by HFP Board of Directors at their quarterly meeting in Spring Lake last week. Tjapkes, of Grand Haven, has been with the organization for six years.
“I want to thank the Board of Directors for their faith in me,” Tjapkes said. “I came on six years ago, not knowing what to
expect but hoping I could be the bridge that takes this organization into the future. I see this as the next logical step in
making that happen.”
Tjapkes succeeds his father, Doug Tjapkes, and is the second President in the history of the organization. Humanity for
Prisoners, originally known as Innocent, was founded by Doug Tjapkes and Maurice Carter in 2001. The prisoner
advocacy agency is a non-profit organization serving inmates in all of Michigan’s state prisons. A team of staff members,
volunteers and professional advisors responds to over 600 calls a month, helping inmates with real, everyday needs.
Prisoners having problems with medical care and seeking help with filing Freedom of Information Act requests make
up nearly 30% of all contacts received.
Doug Tjapkes will remain on staff at HFP, focusing on fundraising and public relations.
“I’m happy to have my dad here to assist me as we both transition to the new phase for ourselves and for this organization,” Matt added. “Doug’s name has been synonymous with Humanity for Prisoners since its inception. Having his wisdom and input as we move forward will be key for the organization’s continued success.”
Both father and son are well-known as radio broadcasters as well. Matt, a sports broadcaster, has worked for WGHN covering Grand Haven Buccaneer football and basketball for the last three years, after covering Muskegon Catholic Central athletics for the previous five years. He also works for the Spartan Sports Network, primarily covering Michigan State University softball. Doug owned and operated WGHN in Grand Haven from 1964-1983.
HFP has offices in Spring Lake, and is solely supported by gifts and contributions. To learn more, visit www.humanityforprisoners.org.
Spring into the week
April 22, 2019
“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime."
Easter Sunday Verse
April 21, 2019
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
1 Peter 1:3
In observance of Good Friday
April 19, 2019
“Unless there is a Good Friday in your life, there can be no Easter Sunday.”
Fulton J. Sheen
HFP goes BOLD!
April 17, 2019
Humanity for Prisoners received an incredible office-warming gift from Muskegon-area custom furniture
manufacturer BOLD Furniture – seven brand new desks and four filing cabinets!
“These gifts from BOLD have given us the opportunity to immediately bring in extra help and volunteers
so we can continue to meet the growing demand for our services,” said HFP Executive Director Matt
Tjapkes. “The furniture not only is extremely functional, but gives us a clean, beautiful look to match
our new office space. We couldn’t be more grateful for their generosity.”
Watch for details in the coming months about an open house so you can check it out!
Give this week
April 15, 2019
As we begin Holy Week:
“Give something, however small, to the one in need. For it is not small to one who has nothing. Neither is it small to God, if we have given what we could.”
-St. Gregory Nazianzen
April 14, 2019
"But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
HFP Blog & Wish List
April 12, 2019
HFP Blog: HFP welcomes another prisoner into freedom! A Lenten story. Read Doug's latest entry HERE.
HFP Wish List: If you caught the latest edition of the HPF monthly newsletter, you may have seen that we're raising funds for a few new computers in our new building. The great news is we're 60% to our goal of $2,819.24 to purchase the two new workstations. If you'd like to help us secure the final $1,127.70, you can make an online donation HERE or send a check to HFP, PO Box 687, Grand Haven, MI 49417, and put "computer" on the memo line. Thank you so much for all your support as we settle in to our new digs!
HFP's 2nd Annual Unball
April 10, 2019
You are cordially invited to stay home in your jammies and NOT attend Humanity for Prisoner's Second Annual Unball!
We had so much fun last year, we decided to not gather again!
This is a non-event designed for busy people with little time for events who want to stay home
with their family while supporting the life-changing work of Humanity for Prisoners.
You don’t have to buy a dress or rent a tuxedo.
You don’t have to do your hair or makeup.
You don’t have to get a sitter.
Your donation WILL NOT be used to rent a hall, pay a caterer, or hire entertainment.
Your donation WILL help prisoners find estranged family members, obtain critical legal
documents, get urgently needed medical care, and prepare to return to society.
Tickets are $50 each
Please consider sponsoring a table of 8 and including all the money you saved not renting a
tuxedo, hiring a babysitter, etc. - No donation is too large!
Please send your non-reservation in to HFP by April 30th. Payments can be made onlineHERE or send by mail to HFP, PO Box 687, Grand Haven, MI 49417.
HFP Annual Report
April 9, 2019
A consultant once recommended that HFP spend the money on an 8-page booklet, in color, for our annual report. It was our decision that not that many people would be interested in reading 8 pages of “hype” about HFP, and that those dollars could be better spent on helping prisoners with their multitude of problems. BUT, we did want you to see our amazing annual report. Matt has posted it on our website (it’s not 8 pages long!), you can view it HERE. Feel the excitement…and believe, with us, that 2019 will be even better!
Learn something this week
April 8, 2019
You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working, and just so, you learn to love by loving. All those who think to learn in any other way deceive themselves.”
-St. Francis de Sales
April 7, 2019
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?"
Starting the Week with Humility, Service and Love
April 1, 2019
"The world tells us to seek success, power and money; God tells us to seek humility, service and love."
March 31, 2019
"He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak."
HFP Blog: As we remember Maurice Carter’s birthday, we wonder just how he’d fit in these days! Read the latest entry HERE.
Vets Reach Out to HFP
March 27, 2019
A message from Doug:
It is the goal and passion of HFP to serve Michigan prisoners. And while we love them all, we have special feelings for military
veterans. Partly, I suppose, because we appreciate their past service to our country. And so we help where and when we can,
with VA issues and questions, finding donors for flags, and supplying yarn for hobby craft programs. Recently, the vets unit at
Saginaw C.F. showed their thanks to HFP in a unique and meaningful way. A beautiful drawing of the hands of Jesus, painted
on canvas by prison artist Anthony Williams, was accompanied by this message as a follow-up to recent open-heart surgery:
"Doug, You are in His healing hands. We’re all praying for your healthy recovery. God bless you! Signed, The Veterans from
Saginaw." That was followed by four pages of hand-written notes and messages from 37 veterans! In her Grand Haven speech,
Sister Helen Prejean made this statement about HFP’s work with prisoners: “…we also develop a reciprocity of mutuality. After
a while we begin to realize, ‘I’m not just going there for those prisoners. It's what they also give to me!’” And that’s what
happened in the mail. We received a heart-warming gift from beautiful friends. Even more than the gift they sent, I treasure the
friendship of these guys! Thank you to the veterans at Saginaw CF.
Do something this week
March 25, 2019
"The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it."
HFP Blog: Today, March 25, is a relatively unknown day on the Christian calendar: St. Dismas Day. Doug thinks it should be a special day for all of us. See today’s post HERE.
March 24, 2019
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
Song of Songs 2:11-13
Starting the Week with Integrity
March 18, 2019
"The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office."
Dwight D. Eisenhower
March 17, 2019
"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good] is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."
HFP is on the Move!
March 13, 2019
A message from Russell Bloem, the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Humanity for Prisoners:
March 7, 2019 was a milestone day for HFP. After years of struggling to get the job done from very
cramped quarters in a retro-fit closet / office in a converted house in Grand Haven, we closed the deal
on our very own “condo office” in Spring Lake!
The office is at an excellent location and in excellent condition. It will generously meet our current
needs and will enable us to accommodate (much needed) volunteers to help us respond to the
ever-increasing volume of requests. We will even have a room for small committee meetings on site.
Everything came together in an amazing way to make this possible! It turns out the sellers were
good friends of HFP and offered us a “sweetheart” land contract deal. A bunch of our Board
members pooled their funds to come up with the down payment. A couple other business friends
are donating the office furniture and computer network that we need. We have people lining up t
o help with painting and setting up. And, after the dust settles, our net operating costs will be about
the same as before.
Now, to be sure, we will continue to need be careful with each and every dollar you all provide – but we are better positioned than ever to make an impact for Michigan inmates. This move opens up a world of possibilities and we couldn’t be more excited.
Stay tuned for details on an open house and other ways you can help!
March 8, 2019
Our friends from the National Lifers of America have asked us to pass along a petition HERE. A note of explanation from our friend Timothy Murphy, who serves as the NLA's Legislative Committee Chairman:
Dear HFP friends,
The National Lifers of America, Inc., (NLA) is a nonprofit Michigan corporation formed on January 1, 1981 and is governed primarily by prisoner boards of directors, on both the national and local chapter levels.
The NLA works to bring about positive reforms for prisoners by advocating for meaningful amendments in Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) policies and Michigan laws amid at reforming our prison system. We seek to assist the underprivileged with academic development and self-determination that fosters a broader understanding of education in criminal justice and formulation of positive solutions towards reform and release of incarcerated persons.
It is our belief that the MDOC continues to hold far too many parole eligible lifer prisoners who can otherwise be safely released into our communities, saving the state nearly a quarter billion dollars annually. If you share this belief we encourage you to become involved by talking to others and individually you all letting your voices be heard through petition drives like the one accompanying this message.
It is extremely important, though, that you (members of the general public) realize how vitally important it is that you join us in efforts like this one. We need you, your family, and your friends to become the voices of the voiceless imprisoned men and women in our state's prisons. You pay (through your tax dollars) to house, feed, dress, and hopefully educate these imprisoned citizens until one day released. You should have a say in whether these men and women come out of prison better than when they entered. Believe me when I tell you there is power in numbers, and if enough of you speak up, though petitions like this one, you can and will be heard.
Please do not think your voice does not count. In reality it only takes one: one act to spark a movement, one tree to start a forest, one vote to change a nation, one star to guide a ship at sea, one laugh to conquer gloom, one sunbeam to light a room, one bird to herald spring, and one of your voices to change this system. Will you be that voice? Will you be one of the ones to help us make real change? Please sign and share our petition. Thank you and God bless.
Timothy Murphy CP/LA
NLA Legislative Committee Chairman
HFP Yarn Program gets early start in 2019!
March 6, 2019
HFP Board Member Judy VanderArk and her husband Pete picked up 725 pounds of yarn from a carpet factory this month. The company, which prefers to remain anonymous, donates unused spools of yarn to HFP for use by prisoners. In this project, thousands of pounds of yarn are collected each year by a team of volunteers, and delivered to various Michigan prisons where inmates knit and crochet items for charity. Pete and Judy have quietly coordinated this exceptional program for years.
HFP Blog: So are the bad guys the ones who are in prison? Doug and Fr Greg discuss the topic today: https://humanityforprisoners.blogspot.com/2019/03/no-bad-guys-really.html
Find the truth
March 4, 2019
"Truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it, but, in the end, there it is."
Sir Winston Churchill
March 3, 2019
"Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless."
March 1, 2019
Michigan’s parole process has been given a grade of C-minus in a national rating. Doug thinks that’s being generous. In today’s post, he focuses on whether prosecutors should even have a part in the parole-granting decision process: https://humanityforprisoners.blogspot.com/2019/02/should-prosecutors-have-say-in-public.html
Another month, another record! HFP is off to a record-breaking start in 2019. After setting a new monthly record with 677 contacts in January, HFP broke that record with 710 in February! Thank you for your continued support as we touch more lives than ever!
Happy Anniversary, Bear!
February 28, 2019
One year ago yesterday, HFP President Doug Tjapkes was able to greet long-time HFP client Anthony "Bear" Johnson after his release. Bear had served over 40 years, and had the amazing record of no tickets his entire time in prison. Months earlier, HFP Executive Director Matt Tjapkes traveled to Jackson to testify at Bear's public hearing before the Michigan Parole Board.
Bear has moved to Maryland and started a new life, and we are so happy for him. Click this link to take a look at his thoughts from a year ago as he stepped out from behind bars: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtoiioI9ktU
HFP Supports Pilot Program at MCF
February 27, 2019
Humanity for Prisoners has agreed to partner with the National Lifers of America chapter at Muskegon Correctional Facility on a pilot project that has a goal of advancing education and rehabilitation behind bars.
According to the NLA, the local chapter purchases educational literature from various publishers and makes it available to the population. As students complete assignments, NLA committee members will check the work and record the results. While these are not official classes, completion still results in a certificate or diploma.
Inmate Bruce Michaels, who chairs the Education Committee, explains that The Parole Board consistently asks how parole candidates have used their time, but many claim that they cannot get into classes. It is the committee’s hope, he says, that these independent studies might alleviate the programming disparity.
Michaels said he teaches classes 4-5 nights a week, and there is always a list of potential students wanting to participate in the program.
Approaching the Week with Humility
February 25, 2019
“Pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right.”
Ezra Taft Benson
HFP Blog: How do we measure success in this prisoner advocacy business? It’s not all that easy. See today’s post HERE.
February 24, 2019
"The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice."
A Case For Restorative Justice in Michigan
February 22, 2019
A column from one of our prison writers, Timothy Murphy:
As a society, we are in dire need of a drastically different approach to the problems created by crime and social-injustice in our state---an approach that focuses on the future, not the past, an approach that begins with who's been hurt and what their needs are and finishes with giving offenders a way back to redemption rather than guaranteeing them a lifetime of hardship.
Restorative justice is an international movement that began in the 1970s. It emerged alongside the victims' rights movement, which argued for more involvement of crime victims in the criminal justice process, as well as the use of restitution as compensation for losses. The common restorative justice models are victim-offender mediation, family group conferencing, and victim-offender dialogue. All of these methods put the victims and the offenders in direct dialogue, nearly always face-to-face, about a specific offense, and always with one or more individuals who act as mediators/facilitators. The intended goal is the rejection of the ugly emotions of revenge, the healing of crime victims, reform and reintegration of offenders, reduction of our prison system, and diversion of funding to education, health care, and infrastructure.
From the late 1970s to the middle 1980s, a number of experimental restorative justice programs were initiated in select jurisdictions in North America and Europe. These initiatives, however, remained small and had little impact on a larger system. Then in 1994 the American Bar Association endorsed victim-offender mediation programs for minor crimes. Support for this movement also came from the National Organization for Victim Assistance, which published, "Restorative Community Justice: A call to Action," and from the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and the European Union. Currently, some states have limited forms of restorative justice principles in practice, but it's hardly enough to make any real difference.
Restorative justice supporters, like myself, believe that these innovative practices have immediate benefits and long-term potential. There is a lot to be said for the power of the healing process over punishment. It has the very likely potential to keep young people and especially young people of color out of the out-of-control prison-industrial complex, and productive members of their communities, while also providing solace to crime victims. Many of us believe it can also provide new ways of responding both to conflicts in general and the inherited oppressive structures of race and class.
One of the major hurdles for restorative justice, however, appears to be the lack of punishment---unless, when you have harmed someone, you consider listening to them express their pain to be punishment, rather than a chance to grow, develop empathy, see yourself in a different light, and learn to change in whatever way you now perceive is needed. Many people consider this process harder than enduring actual punishment. Others view it as being "soft on crime."
There's no question that restorative justice practices would be a boon for budget-cutting politicians and taxpayers. Some restorative justice elements do appeal to the Right, as well as the reformist liberals on the Left. And there are elements that both sides dislike. However, no one is resisting this movement more than the prison-industrial complex and the politicians in its pockets.
Many social conservatives, especially most Christians, support the idea and practice of bringing offenders to a point of remorse and genuine accountability, and then to redemption, a true change of heart. Many other conservatives who do believe in redemption may see it as entirely compatible with punishment. Anyone harmed by crime is likely to have much anger and so traditional notions of "an eye for an eye" will always have great appeal, especially if no mechanisms exist for satisfying the victim's needs for empathy, answers, or restoration.
The essence of restorative justice is the practice of listening and empathy that is by nature corrosive of ideology and self-righteousness. Thus, combining personal accountability with an understanding of the ways one's environment has molded him or her is surely a complex task, not easily assimilated into some conservatives' worldview. But we can change that! By calling on those who who are harmed, offenders, and the affected communities to share the responsibility of responding to violence, restorative justice promotes repair, reconciliation, and the rebuilding of relationships. By honoring the healing power of a story; teaching us to listen deeply to the woundedness within others and ourselves; and working with the energy of conflict and people's intense emotions, restorative justice principles do transform pain into forgiveness, hope and progression as a society.
If the restorative justice movement in Michigan is going to gain any traction, people need to get more excited about it and more involved with it by volunteering to make it routine reality. We, the citizens of Michigan, need mobilize in great numbers to individually express to our legislators that it's high time for a change in our criminal justice system. That we want to see more restorative justice initiatives implemented during this legislative session. This is not an issue we can put off until tomorrow. Please let your voice be heard.
See what you can accomplish this week
February 18, 2019
“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
Harry S. Truman
HFP Blog: The founder of HFP reflects on how people of color made a difference in his life. Black History Month reflections on the HFP Blog HERE.
February 17, 2019
"…what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
HFP Salutes 3 Walden Green Students & Teacher
February 13, 2019
In his Current Affairs class, Charles Freeman encourages his students to think “outside the box.” Three
of his 8th grade students at Walden Green Montessori in Ferrysburg, Michigan, went prowling on line
and discovered the plight of Michigan prisoner Lacino Hamilton. Hamilton, 44, is from Detroit and has
been in prison for twenty years for a crime he claims he did not commit.
The students read about his story on line and couldn’t drop the case. On their own, according to their
teacher, they found out what prison he was in and wrote him a letter. And, he responded. They’re
convinced of his innocence and want to help.
HFP President Doug Tjapkes was invited to chat about wrongful convictions with students in that class.
He explained that his fight to free Maurice Carter, who served 29 years for a crime he did not commit,
led him into this business of prisoner advocacy. Doug had high praise for the three students and their
teacher for not only understanding the seriousness of wrongful convictions, but doing something
“I gave the class suggestions as to how to move forward, as well as a list of suggested reading material. I explained to them that, too often, people express a temporary interest in a wrongful conviction, then move on to something else. Someone who cares. That’s what these people need! I encouraged them to keep on.”
(Pic, L to R---Doug Tjapkes, Chloe Westendorf, Katelyn Byrnes, Simone Dennison)
HFP Blog: Out of cash?
February 12, 2019
Have you heard? The state doesn’t have cash on hand to pay the wrongly convicted! See our thoughts in the latest entry on the HFP Blog HERE.
Starting the Week with Angela Davis
February 11, 2019
“Prisons do not disappear social problems, they disappear human beings. Homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy are only a few of the problems that disappear from public view when the human beings contending with them are relegated to cages.”
― Angela Davis
February 10, 2019
"Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed,
for he shares his bread with the poor."
HFP Blog: Too many people in prison in Michigan, and it’s costing us too many dollars! See today’s post HERE.
Suggested read for Black History Month
February 7, 2019
If you haven’t yet read Doug’s book Sweet Freedom, it’s the perfect choice for Black History Month. Published in 2006, Sweet Freedom is the true story of an unlikely friendship between a white, middle-class broadcast journalist and an indigent African American serving a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. Order your copy now HERE.
Starting the year with prisoner support!
February 6, 2019
The HFP team has received a vote of confidence to start 2019! Executive Director Matt Tjapkes reports that Humanity for Prisoners recently received a $500 donation from the Prisoner Benefit Fund at the Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer. PBF money comes primarily from vending machine and prison store profits. A committee comprised of specially chosen staff members and inmates decides how the money will be spent, usually on equipment and services that will benefit inmates. But they are also allowed to contribute funds to those agencies which they feel provide genuine assistance and support to Michigan prisoners. “We consider it an honor to receive such a contribution,” said Tjapkes.
Test your progress this week
February 2, 2019
"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have too much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little…"
Franklin D Roosevelt
February 3, 2019
"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight."
I Peter 3:3-4
PPB Note Cards on Sale
February 1, 2019
The Prisoner’s Prayer Book announces that blank-inside note cards are now available! The sketches on the fronts of the
cards have been done by a prisoner. The backs of the cards include a box for name and number of the prisoner, along
with the address of the sender. They meet the current requirements set by the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Also available are cards without the “info” box on the back, so they may be sent to those outside prison. Our initial
selection includes: a bird, bear, deer, orangutan, moose, and wolf. 6 cards for $10, includes tax and shipping. Order at:
firstname.lastname@example.org, and specify with or without ID box.
Special! Order 1 set of cards and 1 Prisoner’s Prayer Book for a complete price of $20. Please send orders to the above
e-mail (no credit or debit cards accepted).
HFP Blog: Change needed for the mentally ill
January 29, 2019
One can never complain too much about our treatment of the mentally ill. Not until it’s adequate, that is. See today's entry on the HFP blogHERE.
Speak out this week
January 28, 2019
"Where you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out, because this is your country. This is your democracy. Make it. Protect it. Pass it on."
January 27, 2019
"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive."
Stand up with love in your heart
January 21, 2019
“No, violence is not the way. Hate is not the way. Bitterness is not the way. We must stand up with love in our hearts, with a lack of bitterness and yet a determination to protest courageously for justice and freedom in this land.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
MLK Sunday Verse
January 20, 2019
In preparation for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day:
"If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen."
1 John 4:20
Locked in Solidarity Event February 9th
January 18, 2019
From our friends at the Fresh Coast Alliance:
Every year several thousand men and women return from jail and prison to Muskegon County. Fresh Coast Alliance is a reentry and recovery collaborative partnering with like-minded churches, business and agencies to serve the unmet needs in Muskegon.
Please join us on February 9th as we kick off CCDA's National Awareness & Action Week on Mass Incarceration.
We are gathering, as the church, to discuss prison social justice reform from a theological perspective and
raise awareness about some of the unique challenges returned citizens face. We invite you to come learn
where you can take action and connect to the conversation in service to men and women both behind bars
and returning home.
• Lunch is included in the ticket price. Advance tickets $20.00
• Ticket sales close at 5 pm on February 1st. Tickets at the door will be $35.00
• Tickets are available at Eventbrite www.eventbrite.com/e/locked-in-solidarity-tickets-54178388017
• Registration opens at 9:00 am. Conference begins at 10:00 am.
• Location: 1128 Roberts St, Muskegon, MI 49442
For an event flyer, click HERE.
Seminary Prof named to HFP Board
January 16, 2019
Dr. John Rottman, Professor of Preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, has been
appointed to a three-year term on the Board of Directors of Humanity for Prisoners. The action was
taken by the board at its quarterly meeting in Grand Haven.
Dr. Rottman has had a keen interest in the plight of prisoners for many years. He has made
numerous visits, with and without seminary students, to the notorious Angola Prison in New
Orleans, and serves on the steering committee for the Calvin Prison Initiative. CPI offers credit
courses to inmates/students at the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia.
He received his B.A. degree at Calvin College in 1977, his M.A. at the University of St. Michael’s
College in 1987, his M.Div at Calvin Theological Seminary in 1987, and his Th.D at the University
of Toronto and the Toronto School of Theology.
HFP is the only prisoner advocacy agency in Michigan that focuses solely on one-on-one
assistance to state prisoners for everyday needs. It was founded by Doug Tjapkes in 2001,
and responds to more than 500 contacts per month. It is based in Grand Haven.
“We’re excited to have Dr. Rottman on our team and look forward to working with him,” said Tjapkes.
HFP Blog: More compassion for women?
January 15, 2019
Now that a woman has assumed the highest office in the State of Michigan, we wonder whether women in prison will get more attention, more compassion? See today’s posting on the HFP blog HERE.
Get Ready to Forgive
January 14, 2019
“Let us not listen to those who think we ought to be angry with our enemies, and who believe this to be great and manly. Nothing is so praiseworthy, nothing so clearly shows a great and noble soul, as clemency and readiness to forgive.”
Marcus Tullius Cicero
January 13, 2019
"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly."
Start doing the impossible
January 7, 2019
"Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible."
-Saint Francis of Assisi
HFP Blog: We love to read stories of changed lives, like that of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. But are lives still being changed today? And do we like to read about them? See the latest entry HERE.
January 6, 2019
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
January 4, 2019
The Governor has the right and the ability to grant clemency to prisoners, but in our opinion, more deserve consideration. See today’s blog HERE.