October 24, 2014 |
When Mary DeWitt began painting portraits of lifers in the Pennsylvania correctional system - people even prison administrators believed deserved clemency - she was filled with optimism. "It was 1993, 1994, when I started the program, with the idea that they should've been pardoned in the '90s," she recalled. Twenty years later, DeWitt, 65, has painted new portraits of the women - all of whom remained incarcerated. "Then and Now: Women in Prison," an exhibition of portraits from 1996 and 2014, is on view at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral through next Thursday.
June 7, 2013 |
HAVE YOU ever been hungry and thought, "Man, I could really go for some beef and mush"? Well, then you're in luck. This weekend, Eastern State Penitentiary visitors will be able to sample historic prison delicacies during "Prison Food Weekend. " The event highlights meals that inmates ate during the prison's 142-year history and offers a chance to sample three from different eras: salted and broiled beef with "Indian Mush" (cornmeal and salt), from the 1830s; hamburger steak with brown gravy and Harvard beets, from the 1950s; and, finally, Nutraloaf, a bland, tasteless brick that's served in today's prisons as a more nutritious equivalent to bread and water for punishment.
July 5, 2011 |
WHEN ANTOINE STONE found work at a grocery store this spring, he took a giant step toward self-sufficiency while inching away from ever again being a financial burden on Pennsylvania taxpayers. The well-spoken single father of two daughters didn't just have to overcome the ravages of the recession to land his first real job in years. For Stone, 38, the hurdles to finding work were much higher, and of his own making. The West Philadelphia native estimates that in his younger years he racked up eight to 10 arrests, serving short stints in city jails.
October 5, 2010 |
Alexine L. Atherton, 80, formerly of Oxford, a retired political science professor at Lincoln University and a proponent of prisoners' rights, died Sunday, Aug. 15, at Jenner's Pond, a retirement community in West Grove. From the 1980s until several years ago, Dr. Atherton visited female inmates at the Chester County Prison twice a week as a representative of the Pennsylvania Prison Society. She served on the board and was past president of the organization, which advocates on behalf of prisoners and their families.
June 27, 2010 |
Great news: For the first time in a decade, state prison populations declined last year, with almost half of all states reporting decreases, even tough-as-bullets Texas. However, and you knew there was a however, Pennsylvania led the nation in growth, adding nearly as many inmates, 2,214, as state prisons cumulatively lost. Pennsylvania is so invested in the prison business - the Land of Oz - that we export inmates to Michigan and Virginia facilities. Says civil rights and criminal defense lawyer David Rudovsky, "Instead of shipping produce and other products of economic benefit, we're shipping prisoners.
October 15, 2009 |
PENNSYLVANIA'S prison population is growing so fast and outstripping the system's capacity so extensively that officials are working on a plan to house some inmates farther from home - much farther. Department of Corrections Secretary Jeffrey A. Beard in September sent letters to his counterparts in Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Oklahoma and Virginia asking if they'd be interested in making a buck by housing some of Pennsylvania's inmates - quickly drawing criticism from inmate advocates who say that those states are too far away.
July 17, 2009 |
The state and inmate advocates have challenged a federal judge's ruling last month that Pennsylvania should not apply its tougher 1997 pardon standards to inmates sentenced to life terms before that year. Notices of appeal were filed Friday and Monday in federal court in Harrisburg by state officials and the Pennsylvania Prison Society in challenging the June 11 decision of U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo of the Middle District of Pennsylvania before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
June 26, 2009 |
In a decision that offers a sliver of hope for thousands of older life inmates in Pennsylvania, a federal judge has ruled that lifers whose crimes occurred before 1997 may apply for a commutation under the slightly more liberal rules that were once in place. The ruling by U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo, in the Middle District of Pennsylvania based in Harrisburg, revived a challenge to a 1997 referendum that toughened the state Board of Pardons. Caputo reaffirmed a key part of his 2006 decision, which an appeals court reversed: that the 1997 changes were an unconstitutional "ex post facto," or after-the-fact, punishment for inmates sentenced under the old rules.
June 16, 2009 |
On June 2, Gov. Rendell performed what has become one of the rarest acts for a Pennsylvania governor. He commuted the life sentence of a convicted murderer, paving the way for a 54-year-old Bucks County man to spend the rest of his life on parole. Such acts of mercy, once granted by the dozens, have all but ended for Pennsylvania's more than 4,600 lifers, the result of a 1994 commutation gone lethally bad. The springing of George Gregory Orlowski, sentenced for his part in a 1980 murder, is only the second life term commuted since Rendell took office - and only the third in Pennsylvania since 1994.
October 13, 2008 |
Two weeks after Gov. Rendell halted paroling state inmates, the population of Pennsylvania's 27 prisons continues to swell. Officially, the Sept. 30 monthly census - taken one day after Rendell froze paroles in response to the killing of Philadelphia Police Officer Patrick McDonald by a paroled felon - showed that the inmate population of 46,883 was eight percent above what prison officials say is needed to maintain "quality of life and safety for both staff and inmates. " Prison experts now say overcrowding is actually closer to 17 percent above capacity and they worry about how the system will hold up without that monthly release of 1,100 parolees.