Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Troy's first book is published!

Hello to all the Friends of Troy,

I know it's been quite some time since you've heard from us. While we have not updated this blog since Troy's last commutation application was denied by Michigan's governor almost a year ago, he has been hard at work on a book, advance copies of which are now available for purchase!

It's called "Stepping Up: Wholeness Ethics for Prisoners and Those Who Care About Them" and is published by my imprint, The Whole Way Press. The book will also soon be available at Amazon.com. Whether you know someone in prison or are seeking wholeness yourself, we think you'll find this book valuable.

This has truly been a labor of love. As many of you know, Troy has been teaching an ethics class at his prison, Kinross Correctional Facility, for several years. But he has been doing more than simply teaching about existing ethical systems. The Kinross Ethics Project is based on an ethical system for everyday living that Troy has developed himself from years of self-education and seeking. I'll let the back-of-book blurb speak for itself:

"Men and women in prison are seen by society as problems and burdens. This book begins with a different premise: that you can be a solution, not only in the world but in your own life as well. It's about a way of living called wholeness ethics and it's based on the simple truth that we find our own wholeness only in right relationship with the world.

"From the perspective of his 30 years behind bars, author Troy Chapman offers a roadmap for living this truth and moving toward soundness, well-being and the realization of one's larger purpose. Distilling experience to four essential relationships - with yourself, others, the transcendent and nature - Chapman shows how to consider each in the light of ethical thinking and restore wholeness to each one.

"With down-to-earth examples and language, compassion and good humor, this book will help you 'step up' to your true purpose, transform your life and your relationships, and help create a better world in the process."
We have also created a new blog to accompany the book: The Wholeness Ethics Blog. Bookmark us there for posts about the practice of wholeness ethics!

Troy and I are infinitely grateful to all of you who have been such wonderful friends to us. Without you, this book would not have been possible.


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Troy Chapman author page
Stepping Up book page

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Last Freedom

by Troy Chapman

Well, as Maryann has already posted, our bid for commutation has been denied by both the Michigan Parole Board and the governor. As I’ve spent the past few days pondering this decision I keep coming back to a few things.

We don’t know why this decision was made instead of a more positive one. Perhaps we’ll find that out eventually. Whatever we may find out I’m fairly certain that I’ve done all that I can in the matter. There’s some comfort in this because I know I have done my part. On the other hand, there’s some frustration in it as well because I’m not sure what’s required of me at this point. Needless to say, it’s a sad time.

I have, throughout the process, been thinking about Scott Chandler and his family. Whatever the past 26 years have been for me, he hasn’t had them at all, nor has his family had them with him due to my actions. I think also about my own family, who were hurt as well by my actions.

Last night in the ethics group, we talked about the central premise of the group: that we should at all times do only what increases wholeness in ourselves and in the world. We talked about what that means and I spoke of how my crime tore up the wholeness of so many people. During this conversation, another of the central ideas of my life came up — that is what Viktor Frankl, Nazi death camp survivor, called “man’s last freedom.” He said we can’t always determine what happens to us in life or what our circumstances are but we can always choose how we will respond to those circumstances.

This outcome of continued incarceration is certainly not what I would have chosen if I had a choice. But I didn’t. What I do have a choice in is how I respond to it now. And so my question is, with all things being as they are, what response will increase wholeness in myself and in the world?

I don’t know the answer yet, but I think part of it is simply asking the question. If I can do nothing else or know nothing else, I know this: Turning my mind and spirit to this question rather than to the million other places it wants to run like water right now is in itself a wholistic act.

So I have my question. I think it’s not just the question for this situation but the question for all of life: What response will increase wholeness? I will continue asking it as I process and adjust to this.

I’ve said before but not for awhile how much all of you who call yourselves my friends mean to both Maryann and me. Your support and encouragement mean more than we can tell you.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Application Denied by Governor

I'm extremely sad to announce that Troy's commutation application was denied by the Michigan Parole Board and Governor Jennifer Granholm this week.

This is pretty upsetting because Granholm's last day in office is the end of this year; it's unlikely very many commutations will be signed by whoever is the next governor, if any. Troy seems to be managing the news. He told me "I'm working on being where I am, rather than trying to be somewhere I can't be." I wish I could deal with this with such equanimity.

Of course, it's not all that easy to get over a blow like this and he knows that too. If you want to send Troy an encouraging note, you can email it here or, better yet, mail it to Troy Chapman, 169076, 16770 Water Tower Dr., Kincheloe, MI 49788.

Thank you to everyone for your support and caring.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Glimmer

It's been a very long time since I've posted. The wheels of justice do grind slowly.

But there has been some positive movement in Troy’s case. Troy’s counselor received a request for a Parole Eligibity Report (PER) on Troy from the parole board. Whenever the board wants to consider giving someone an interview or hearing they request this form. The board has requested the info by July 8.

As a point of reference, no PER was requested the last time we applied, and Troy’s application was sent to the governor without a positive recommendation; this is moving off in quite another direction than last time.

This is a Good Thing. Say your prayers, please. 



Sunday, January 3, 2010

Second Commutation Application Sent to Lansing

Hello, and happy new year. Last week, I mailed Troy's second commutation application to the Michigan Parole and Commutation Board. Inmates in Michigan are permitted to apply for commutation every two years, and it has now been two years since Troy's first application was received by the board.

Applicants are not supposed to send the same documentation in support of their bids for commutation as they did in previous applications, and we adhered to this rule. And yet the package I sent was as thick as the first one! New documentation this time included news of Troy's popular NPR essay for the This I Believe program, the fact that his Ethics Project was approved as an official program of the Michigan Department of Corrections, excerpts from the starter kit Troy wrote to help prisoners in other facilities start their own Ethics Projects, and last, but not least, the letters sent by many of Troy's supporters in the spring of last year expressing their sadness at the outcome of his first commutation application.

We have more hope for this application than the last one. The men Troy has known who have received commutations have all applied more than once. And we have learned that the board is more receptive of applications from people who have served 25 or more years for second degree murder. At the time of his last application, Troy had served 23 years. The 25th anniversary of his crime was in late November of last year.

As always, I thank you all for your support for Troy. Please keep this application in your thoughts and prayers, and also please pray for Troy and me and our friends and families as we endure this time of waiting to see how the board and Governor Jennifer Granholm will handle this request for clemency. And don't forget the family of Troy's victim, who have suffered much.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bearing Witness

I have been blessed to receive several letters of support on Troy's behalf that have been sent to the Parole Board and governor's office. They have warmed my heart and inspired me profoundly. I thought our supporters might like to share in the inspiration, so I am including some passages below.

If you have yet to write your letter, please don't use any of the following verbatim. But please do take the time to write from your heart.

From an "outside" volunteer who attends the Kinross Ethics Program that Troy developed:
"The most profound and emotionally touching experience is the open sharing and discussion of past failures that Troy promotes in the class. He encourages the analysis of decisions through the lens of integrity, character and fairness that causes the participants to evaluate past actions and come to grips with the consequences of those actions. In that process I sense genuine remorse and acute awareness of the depth and breadth of the hurt caused not only to the victim and the victim’s family, but also their own loved ones and society in general.

"Troy’s leadership in helping men change lives is not restricted to the classroom. Troy is well known and respected by fellow inmates and officers alike in the compound as a guy who “walks the talk”. In all aspects of his life he inspires others prisoners to change thought processes and behaviors by applying the principles of ethics. He challenges himself and others to not let past failures limit their ability to be a beneficial presence in all relationships and interactions, whether it is with an officer, a fellow inmate or a family member.

"I would estimate that in the four years the KCF ethics program has been in place nearly 100 men have positively impacted. The success of the program is due to Troy’s passion to help others, leadership ability and keen interpersonal skills. He has developed a succession plan with a core group of likeminded men trained to continue on with the program."

From a former fellow inmate:
"I arrived at the Kinross Correctional Facility in Michigan's upper peninsula in the spring of 2007. ...

"I heard about the Ethics program that was being offered by one of the inmates on the compound and I soon learned that that inmate was Troy Chapman. Initially I was skeptical, what could a convicted felon know about ethics? I kept hearing more and more about this “Troy” guy and his band of ethical thinkers and, intrigued, I signed up. That action opened up doors that up until that point I did not even know existed.

"In Troys class, actually discussion group is a more apt description, I started on a whole new way of thinking about myself and the world around me. Under Troys tutelage I came to realize that I was part of something much bigger than myself. Up until then I had been acting in a very self serving manor, even in my pursuit of self improvement. He introduced me to the concept of being what he called a “Beneficial Presence”. In a nut shell this means to consider every action and every situation and calculate the most loving response to that situation and then act upon it. It is not always the easiest thing to do but it is always the right thing to do.

"Thank God for Troy and his altruistic ways. He was able to lead me down his chosen path, selflessness and concern for others before himself. Troy is an exceptional human being and has come a long way from the person that committed the ultimate selfish act, homicide, some 26 years ago. I was fortunate never to have known that individual and therefore my opinion and judgment are not clouded by his past. I only know the Troy of today and I am grateful for the friendship that was fostered inside the fence and continues today. ...

"His continuing community support, preparedness for transition, and deportment while incarcerated should all, in my humble opinion, make him an exceptional candidate for parole."

From a Friend of Troy in Michigan who has personally corresponded with Troy:
"Punishment is a concept with diminishing returns, and prisons spit out brittle, angry men. But Troy Chapman stands as proof that change is possible, even in the harsh environment of the cellblock. For a willing few, incarceration is a wake-up call – a chance to start life over from scratch. When I asked Troy how he became what he is now, he wrote back that he came to a place where he could no longer live as he was, and he had to find, or create, some kind of meaning in his life. “Grace” took it from there. I saw then, a man willing to take the risk of seeing himself for what he truly is – imperfect - and then set out to learn from his mistakes and evolve into who he was meant to be. Part of this journey involved sharing the special gifts he discovered. He has since, struggled heroically in his unique community, creating a small island of calm in the center of the insanity that is prison life.

"Daily, Troy leaves his mark on the world, but it is a small world, limited by razor wire and locked doors. And daily his life says by example: 'This is what I’ve accomplished. You can do it too. I’ll help.'"

From Friends of Troy in Pennsylvania who have also corresponded with Troy:
"During the past 24 years Troy Chapman has had a lot of time to think, to pray, to study, to learn, and to create. He has written music, created art, taught classes, and become a writer. Some of his articles were published, which is how we became acquainted with him. His philosophical questions about life, about our relationships with one another, and about God have resulted in more writings that have enriched the lives of those of us who have become aware of his story. His goal in life now is to be a good citizen in the world today, making positive contributions as opportunities which use his strengths present themselves. To that end he is currently teaching Ethics to other Kinross prisoners. If released from prison we have every reason to believe that he would continue his quest to make a positive difference in a world that surely can benefit from his example of personal transformation.

"Today Troy Chapman has made friends with men and women outside the prison who will continue to be his friends whether or not he is released. He now has positive role models, as well as people willing to be mentors and people willing to support him through the transition from prisoner to good citizen and working member in society.

"Troy Chapman has become an introspective, mature, and wise man, committed to nonviolence, who now has the education and skills to teach and to be a role model for others. We hope you will look more deeply at his record in prison and his potential for being a good citizen out of prison. We feel that he has, increasingly over the past 24 years, demonstrated that he has been rehabilitated and is prepared to assume a positive and productive role in society should he be given the opportunity to enter it again. Should his case again come across your desk for reconsideration, we ask you to look with favor upon him."

From Friends and correspondents in The Netherlands:
"In his remarkable process he imagined himself in the place of that other young man he killed, cut off from life. He felt guilt and deep remorse. Then he tried to reflect and to feel what it meant for the parents and relatives. To lose in such way your son, brother, your friend.

"That is not an easy and common thing to do for a criminal. But Troy Chapman realized that if he did not feel in the most deep way possible what his deed signified for the victim and other people, then there would be no way to live his life in the years to come.” He understood the laws of life, taking responsibility and having the courage to feel what he had done, asking himself: 'What does my decision, my acts in life mean to that other human being?'

"From that moment on we are deeply involved in Mr. Chapman’s beautiful writings about his inner experiences. He has developed himself as a great teacher, doing lovely work for the people within the prison and for many people outside.

"As teachers to adult people, searching for the meaning of life, establishing qualities like peace, friendship and spiritual awareness in the life of our students, we are using quotations of Troy regularly. They are of great wisdom and at the same time so adaptable. That’s how Troy helps us all to transform ourselves as he did."

From Friends in France:
"We visited Troy Chapman in 2003 and in 2006 and can only express, that we met a very well educated person, sensitive, intelligent and very alive. His interest in others makes us think that he probably would be very useful in helping others such as socially disturbed youngsters. All his experiences in life, especially the difficult ones, may be particularly helpful on one hand to understand these youngsters and on the other to show them how one can transform oneself.

"It must not be an easy task to evaluate the transformation of a person. How does one evaluate the transformation of a person like Troy Chapman who worked hard on himself in jail for 24 years after having entered as a very young man of only 21?
Do you think it is still possible after 40 years in jail to integrate into the wider society? Perhaps it is better not to wait for too long, especially for the ones who have worked in a remarkable way on themselves, because everybody should have an interest that the transformed prisoners find their way back into society."

From a Friend and correspondent in New York:
"Troy has accepted full responsibility for his crime, made no excuses and rejected the errors of his youth. He has become a mature individual through his strong effort toward atonement. There is strong evidence that he has succeeded in becoming a valuable, caring, wise and productive person.

"In view of all this I feel that he has served enough time to deserve being released as soon as possible and hope the board will see fit to show him clemency. He would not be a danger to society but a great gift to have among us.

"I would be delighted to have Troy live in my neighborhood or in my apartment as a kind of half-way house. He is an honest and inspiring person who I would feel privileged to socialize with. I would be very happy to testify futher in his behalf if asked."

From a Friend who is a corrections employee in Minnesota:
"I have been deeply touched by Troy’s inspirational communications from prison, his blogs and his artwork which show incredible insight and depth. This is especially astonishing in light of the conditions in which he lives his life. I have worked in the corrections field since 1985 and have been inspired by many of my clients. However I have never seen this kind of commitment to the development of the human spirit. I have been an avid reader of books on spirituality from many traditions for year and you rarely see this kind of insight in people outside of prison. Given the extraordinary commitment Troy has given to creating a positive presence to people both inside and outside prison I hope someone soon sees fit to commute his sentence."

I am so grateful to everyone who has taken the time to write and those who have promised to do so. You are lights in the world.

—Maryann Gorman