Temujin Kensu: A Man for Others

Editor's Note: Sometimes when going over a wrongful conviction case, we don't get past the facts of the wrongful conviction itself. But with every person, there is another and an entirely different story: the person him\herself. Who was this person before the incarceration,? Who is this person while serving his time? And who does he aspire to be in the future if given a chance?


In this blog, we want to give you a peek at Temujin Kensu: who he has been during his 34 years-and-counting incarceration. The description is by one of the people who know him best, Proving Innocence board member, David Sanders. I think you will be impressed, not only by his skills but by his heart. I know I am. Bill Branham


Addressing the question as to 'why is the MDOC administration is so unsympathetic to Kensu?' Sanders says :

Dave Sanders of Proving Innocence

In fact, Kensu has a good rapport with most on-the-floor MDOC officers because he resolves disputes all the time and he defends officers too when they are in the right. He actually protected and saved an officer decades ago during a riot. But to the MDOC administration, he has been a “thorn in the side” from the very beginning of his life sentence. When Kensu was first sent to Jackson Prison in 1987, he spent six months in the law library, committed to learning the rules and fighting for justice, at first regarding his wrongful conviction.


But then seeing all the abuses surrounding him, he started helping others. Along the way, he was befriended by “old-timers” and became part of what was known as "The Law Dogs" – the guys who help others. And from then on, Kensu has always helped fellow prisoners with their legal problems free of charge. (He has a standing invitation to work as a paralegal for a Southfield law firm once freed). In prison, he’s not a “petty complainer” but has focused on inmates who can’t afford counsel concerning the "big issues" – such as access to the courts, health care, abuse of prisoners, access to fundamental needs like healthy food and exercise. He has not written a single personal grievance in almost two years.


Mike Mongan, Paula Randolph and Temujin Kensu

MDOC administrators have issues with Kensu because he has proven to be an excellent and successful “jailhouse lawyer”. In terms of prisoners’ rights, he has won:

  • Kensu v. Haigh: (The right of confidentiality in legal correspondence with attorneys and right to have all forms of legitimate delivery of legal mail protected)

  • Kensu v. Cason: (The right to practice a legitimate religion of one’s choice)

  • Kensu v. Buskirk: (The right to adequate medical care and to be free from cruel and unusual punishment)

  • Cain v. MDOC: (The right to due process and protection of property and assets; the right to be free from retaliation)

  • Granda v. MDOC: (The right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and the right to adequate dental care)

  • Especially irritating to the MDOC is that Kensu won a $325,000 federal lawsuit for lack of proper and adequate medical care that he was denied, despite his doctors’ orders and recommendations.

The MDOC administration is not a fan of Kensu because he has forced them to make things right. He is presently litigating the atrocious diet for prisoners – one with little nutritional value that leads to diabetes, high blood pressure, etc., and, in turn, increased health care costs for the MDOC. Most dog food has as good, if not better, ingredients and vitamins than what inmates get. The diet, which used to be fairly nutritional, has gone downhill for years. No organization likes to be told what they are doing needs to change. Kensu suffers criticism from the MDOC administration because he is a “thorn in the side” – a force for change, and a very effective one at that.


David Sanders June 27, 2020


We encourage you to support Temujin's current petition requesting that the Governor pardon him/grant him clemency. He now has 500 signatures and we are hoping to get 1,000! Click here to sign the petition.

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