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  • Doug Tjapkes

HFP Nationwide? It's time!

The secret’s out. Now it’s time to share. HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS is no longer one of Michigan’s best-kept secrets.

When I started this outfit nearly 20 years ago, we not only had no eye on the future, but we didn’t even know where we were headed. We simply recognized that my prisoner friend/brother Maurice Carter insisted there should be an organization to help inmates, and someone had to make it happen.

Over the years we fine-tuned the name of the agency, as well as the work. Now, the word is out. Someone cares about the everyday needs and problems prisoners face, and is willing to help. The news is spreading like wildfire, and our team is struggling to keep up.

Here’s a glimpse at ways we try to aid Michigan prisoners:

-Help prisoners struggling with proper medical care or troubling medical questions;

-Help prisoners file appropriate FOIA requests (Michigan is one of only a few states not permitting inmates to file their own queries under the Freedom of Information Act;)

-Help prisoners track down and find missing family members and loved ones;

Help prisoners find important information;

Help prisoners prepare commutation applications;

Help prisoners prepare to meet the Parole Board.

Following years of steady growth, we experienced sharp increases in 2019. Our staff and volunteers added over 1,000 names to our list of prisoners being helped, and they responded to nearly 10,000 messages via email, snail mail and telephone.

Then, in 2020, came the pandemic and a hotter-than-usual Michigan summer, and all hell broke loose! CEO Matt Tjapkes reports that, as of this week, HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS has topped all of last year’s numbers! A deluge!

To put it in perspective, we’re adding 5 names per day to the list of prisoners we are helping; we’re responding to 40-50 messages per day from inmates or their representatives---7 days a week. Numbers support our claim that we’ve touched the lives of more than 10% of Michigan’s prisoners!

How do incarcerated persons feel? HFP is receiving a record number of personal contributions from inmates…men and women who earn a few dollars a week! The ultimate compliment!

The time is now for HFP to consider methods of expansion into other states. Perhaps it can be as simple as designing a franchise system.

Consultant Dr. David Schuringa said, while helping us formulate a strategic plan: “No one does what you’re doing. No one wants to do what you’re doing!”

Prisoners in other states deserve the same kind of “action with compassion” provided by our team of staff members, volunteers, and professional consultants. And I’m betting someone wants to do it!

May these two Bible verses be the incentive. From the Old Testament: Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. From the New Testament: …remember those in prison as if you were together with them.

What are we waiting for?

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