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Pennsylvania Prison Society

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NEWS
September 18, 1987 | By LINN WASHINGTON, Daily News Staff Writer
It's tough to have much of a relationship with the wife and kids with a prison guard looking over your shoulder. But under present policy, prisoners in Pennsylvania never get to see their wives or other family members away from the prying eyes of suspicious authorities, usually in a big room noisy with other inmates and their families, all yearning for a bit of privacy. The problem is due for some attention soon. Bill Babcock, executive director of Pennsylvania Prison Society, and David Owens, new state superintendent of prisons, both support the idea of conjugal visits for inmates in the state's eight prisons.
NEWS
May 9, 1990 | By Howard Goodman, Inquirer Staff Writer
A Holmesburg Prison inmate who died Sunday collapsed last week after a guard denied him permission to obtain his regular medication for high blood pressure, several inmates have contended. James Barnwell, 45, a convicted murderer from North Philadelphia, died about 2 p.m. at Nazareth Hospital. A spokesman for the Medical Examiner's Office said Barnwell died of a cerebral hemorrhage due to hypertension. Four inmates whose cells were near Barnwell's have contended that Barnwell asked a guard for permission to visit the prison infirmary about 10:30 p.m. Thursday, but that the guard refused, according to Janet Leban, executive director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society.
NEWS
September 29, 1989 | By Amy S. Rosenberg and Robert J. Terry, Inquirer Staff Writers Inquirer staff writer John Woestendiek contributed to this article
Reputed Junior Black Mafia leader Mark "Goldie" Casey died at Holmesburg Prison this week from an adverse reaction to drugs, according to police officials - drugs that inmate leaders yesterday contended were commonly supplied by correctional officers. Medical tests found traces of drugs in the body of Casey, who was found stricken in his D Block cell Tuesday night, Homicide Capt. Lawton Connelly said yesterday. "Preliminary tests showed that Casey had in his system the components of the narcotic known as pancakes and syrup," Connelly said.
NEWS
June 26, 2009 | By Joseph A. Slobodzian INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
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.
NEWS
September 25, 1992 | by Kitty Caparella, Daily News Staff Writer
"Praise the Lord, Mom, I'm coming home!" That was the reaction of Kenneth Tervalon, 45, once a feared member of the former Black Liberation Army who plotted to kidnap former Mayor Frank L. Rizzo and later killed a fellow gang member, after learning this week that his life sentence had been commuted by Gov. Casey. Tervalon, James T. Greene, 49, and Robert Jefferson, 48, all Philadelphia area men, were informed by state Prison Superintendent Donald Vaughn at Graterford Prison Tuesday that Casey had commuted their life sentences, making them eligible for parole.
NEWS
January 12, 2000 | By Nancy Petersen, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
The Chester County commissioners said yesterday that they are looking into allegations that county inmates housed at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Delaware County are receiving substandard medical care. The statement came during their weekly meeting, after West Caln resident Paul Martens presented them with a long list of complaints about care at the facility. "The conditions there are deplorable," Martens told the commissioners. Martens said he has a friend who is a registered nurse who is being held at the facility.
NEWS
March 23, 1999 | by John M. Baer, Daily News Staff Writer
The 3,525 Pennsylvanians serving life prison terms got rare good news yesterday when a state court improved their odds of maybe someday getting out. In a 5-2 ruling, Commonwealth Court overturned a voter-approved constitutional amendment requiring a unanimous vote of the state Board of Pardons to commute a life sentence or a death penalty. The court said that because the issue was tied to other board changes, it confused voters and failed to meet what the court called "the requirement that amendments be voted on separately.
NEWS
January 13, 1995 | by Mark McDonald, Daily News Staff Writer
For years, members of the city Prison Board were paid for prison visits they never made, according to an investigation by the City Controller and the Inspector General. But don't expect the city to force prison trustees to repay the $50 fee they received for each phantom visit. The reason is simple enough. Records don't make clear who visited and who didn't. As a result of the probe, the Rendell administration wants to end the practice of paying trustees for monthly visits and to improve their training.
NEWS
May 14, 1987 | By LINN WASHINGTON, Daily News Staff Writer
District Attorney Ronald D. Castille is bottling up a pre-release program devised specifically to help reduce overcrowding in the city's jails, officials of the Pennsylvania Prison Society charged yesterday. Prison society officials said that, despite evidence that prison pre- release programs in other states are safe and economical, Castille has objected to nearly 90 percent of the requests for release under the Community Service Orders Project during the past 10 months. Because of his objections, the number of inmates released under the program has dropped from 25 per month two years ago to a current rate of about six per month, the prison society noted.
NEWS
June 27, 2008
State Rep. John Perzel (R., Phila.) favors eliminating parole in many cases, imposing longer sentences, and tinkering with the decision-making of the parole board ("Time to get tougher with parolees who return to their violent crimes," June 25). If any of these recommendations would make a positive difference, they would be hard to oppose. But they are the very sorts of changes that have contributed to the sorry state of corrections today: massive overcrowding; steadily escalating costs for prison construction and operations; increases in street violence; and the erosion of city neighborhoods where virtually all of the fathers and other potential role models are in prisons.
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ARTICLES BY DATE
NEWS
October 24, 2014 | By Samantha Melamed, Inquirer Staff Writer
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.
NEWS
June 7, 2013 | BY MICHAEL RUSSELL, For the Daily News
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.
NEWS
July 5, 2011 | By MENSAH M. DEAN, deanm@phillynews.com 215-854-5949
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.
NEWS
October 5, 2010 | By Sally A. Downey, Inquirer Staff Writer
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.
NEWS
June 27, 2010 | By Karen Heller, Inquirer Columnist
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.
NEWS
October 15, 2009 | By MENSAH M. DEAN, deanm@phillynews.com 215-854-5949
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.
NEWS
July 17, 2009 | By Joseph A. Slobodzian INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
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.
NEWS
June 26, 2009 | By Joseph A. Slobodzian INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
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.
NEWS
June 16, 2009 | By Larry King INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
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.
NEWS
October 13, 2008 | By Joseph A. Slobodzian INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
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.
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