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  • Doug Tjapkes

A ray of sunshine, a glimmer of hope, for 2 MI prisoners!

Two innocent men behind bars have new hope today. That makes us very proud! As I’ve mentioned before, Michigan prisoners are not permitted to seek legal documents through the Freedom of Information Act. The act, adopted in 1976 so that all persons would have access to legal documents, got amended in 1994. Claiming that prisoners were abusing this privilege, the Michigan legislature determined that prisoners are not “persons,” and put a stop to this activity. Our position is that of many legal scholars: Denying prisoners the right to seek important legal documents by submitting FOIA requests actually deprives them of the right to due process of law. So, we file the claims for them. The word has quickly circulated among Michigan prisoners, and we are inundated with requests. To give you an idea, we’ve already filed more than 300 FOIA requests for prisoners so far this year. An amazing number when you consider the fact that we couldn’t file any, due to COVID, in March and April. But back to my story. A year or so ago Mr. K. contacted our office for FOIA assistance. He’d been trying to prove his innocence for the past 15 years, to no avail. Working hand in hand, he and Matt started retrieving important papers. I’ve just been notified by an attorney specializing in wrongful convictions that he and another lawyer believe the man has a case. They’re going to help! That makes two! Last year, documents retrieved through our FOIA assistance produced enough evidence for an Innocence Project to take on another guy’s case. Two doesn’t seem like very many. After all, an estimated 1,500 men and women in the Michigan prison system are innocent. Locked up for something they didn’t do. It’s a shameful statistic, and casts a dark shadow over our entire criminal justice system. BUT, two guys have new hope today, thanks to the diligent work of the HFP team! If this reminds you of the rejoicing in heaven over finding one “lost sheep,” in a parable that Jesus told, keep in mind that the other 99 were safe. In our case, the other 98 just haven’t proven their innocence yet. So yes, we’re rejoicing today. Tomorrow we’ll try again. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Lao Tzu

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