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The Heart of Justice: Decarcerate Pennsylvania

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014
Decarcerate PA is a growing state-wide movement focused on challenging the public policies that have caused explosive growth of Pennsylvania’s prison population over the past 30 years. A Decarcerate organizing team from Philadelphia led one of the workshops at our Nov. 2013 “Heart of Justice” event, and they returned to Allentown on March 1 and April 5 to begin organizing a Lehigh Valley chapter.

Decarcerate’s work is guided by a three-fold platform which has been endorsed by more than 100 Pennsylvania organizations: (more…)

The Heart of Justice: Faces of the Prisoner*

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Stereotypes of who is most likely to be stopped, arrested or in prison were explored through the use of photos representing African Americans, Hispanics, European Americans, male and female. None of the persons in the photographs were known to have ever been arrested. The photos of African American and Hispanic males were considered most likely to have been incarcerated. (more…)

The Heart of Justice: Prison Life in Pennsylvania

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Rev. Michael Comick, Chaplain at a prison in central Pennsylvania, led a workshop on “the life of prison inmates and family communications” at the Heart of Justice event in November 2013. This is a workshop report by Janet Ney.

Michael led us through a description of a day in the life of a prisoner incarcerated at the prison, a facility that was built to house 1,500 prisoners. Currently, this prison houses 2,300 prisoners, including 750 people serving life sentences. Among the prisoners are 120 young people, 21 years old or younger. Medical attention is provided by a staff nurse who may need to see 50 inmates in an hour.

One of Michael’s basic points was that prisons do not rehabilitate. (more…)

The Heart of Justice: Retribution or Restoration?

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014
“He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives … to let the oppressed go free.” Luke 4:18
“I was in prison and you visited me …” Matt. 25:36

About 85 people gathered November 9 at the Sacred Heart Hospital Conference Center for conversation about the state of Pennsylvania’s “criminal justice” system and its implications for Allentown and the Lehigh Valley. In Pennsylvania, “criminal justice” has become a euphemism for Commonwealth policies that have produced an exploding prison population. The state’s share of funding for basic public education and related social services has been progressively reduced for many years while the state prison system has been rapidly expanding – an increase of more than 500% in the (more…)

Resources for Basic Education on
the “Prison Industrial Complex”

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

  • Local groups may contact us (justice@ppjr.org) to reserve our DVD copy of the documentary “Broken on All Sides,” licensed for public showing. Please plan to allow time for group discussion following the film which runs about 68 minutes.
  • For a reading group, consider either of the books, The New Jim Crow, by Michele Alexander (2010), or Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis, by Christian Parenti (2008). Spend several sessions in discussion as the group reads through either book.
  • What do you know about our prisons, jails, and the judicial system? Even many people who have served on juries have never been inside a jail or prison. Do you know people who have been incarcerated? Can we help make the connection?
  • See justice.ppjr.org for additional resources.

The Heart of Justice – What’s Next?

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

About 85 people were part of the conversation at “The Heart of Justice” event on November 9 at Sacred Heart Hospital Conference Center. Look for occasional updates here and monthly reports in the Ecumenical Encounters newsletter of the Lehigh County Conference of Churches.

Several churches and other organizations are planning book study or discussion groups, or/and screenings of the documentary “Broken on All Sides” – starting early 2014. Already in planning are: (more…)