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Decarcerate PA has had a busy few months! Since we got back from our 113mile march from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, we've continued to push for an end to mass incarceration in Pennsylvania. ing on December 31st, we posted images of what people across the state would like to build instead of prisons. The images were viewed and shared by thousands of people on social media. In October, we expanded our efforts to build a statewide movement by leading community meetings in Reading, Harrisburg, and Allentown. Our direct efforts to stop prison expansion also expanded, as we uncovered new evidence through the Right-to-Know process that the DOC lied about the information they used to justify the construction of SCI Phoenix I & II. We held a call-in day where people called House Judiciary Chair Representative Ron Marsico to demand he hold a hearing to In August, we launched a new grassroots outreach effort, a monthly door to door canvass. Through this effort, members of Decarcerate PA have spoken with hundreds of folks in neighborhoods across Philly about mass incarceration and what they would like to see instead of prisons. In September, we started a weekly radio


Movement aGainst mass Incarceration continues to Grow


being built in Montgomery County. We also delivered a list of demands to the DOC, including: 1) cancel the Graterford prison expansion, 2) end long term solitary confinement, 3) publicly oppose Life Without Parole sentencing, 4) establish a mechanism for community oversight of the prison system, 5) remove barriers to parole, 6) end administrative transfers, 7) subsidize family visits, 8) stop torturing people with mental illnesses, 9) increase programming and educational opportunities, and 10) improve nutrition and medical care.

Hakim and Ana on Decarcerate PA Radio

Pull the Plug street theater on the doorsteps of the DOC

show on 88.1 WPEB. The show provides info on what Decarcerate PA and our ally organizations are up to, how incarceration impacts people in Philadelphia and around the world, and includes a section where we share statements that people have sent to us from inside of Pennsylvania's prisons. On September 23 we also launched our 100 Days Instead of Prisons campaign. This campaign was a social media effort designed to help the public envision a world where resources are directed towards community needs and away from mass incarceration. Over the course of one hundred days and culminat-

Jhondi breaks down the Instead of Prisons campaign

investigate these lies. In November, we took our demands directly to the Department of Corrections headquarters. On November 6th, members of Decarcerate PA traveled to Mechanicsburg to deliver a giant electrical plug to DOC Secretary John Wetzel, and demand that he pull the plug on prison expansion in Pennsylvania. This creative direct action took place in conjunction with a statewide call in day to demand the cancelation of the $400 million prisons currently

In December, we went to Harrisburg to meet with legislators on the Senate and House Judiciary Committees to continue our push for hearings on prison expansion and an immediate halt to construction while an investigation is conducted. We also partnered with Apiary, a Philadelphiabased literary magazine, to feature the work of incarcerated writers in their winter 2013 issue. Stay tuned for more in 2014! We look forward to further amplifying the struggle in 2014! May this be a New Year of No New Prisons!

In the winter and spring of 2013, a small flurry of bills were introduced to the state house and senate, all with the intent of placing restrictions on the Right to Know Law of 2008. To date, none of these bills has moved to a vote either in committee or on the floor of the state house or senate. It is our hope that this will remain the case. The bills are variously: HB115, HB1093, HB480, and SB444. The absolute worst of these is HB115, introduced by Rep. RoseMarie Swanger, a Republican from Lebanon County; if passed, Swangers bill would essentially deny prisoners all access to filing Right to Know requests by allowing state agencies to refuse to respond to any requests coming from incarcerated persons. However, each and every one of these legislations introduces additional constraints that seek to limit or strip prisoners of their rights under the law. We encourage everyone to keep an eye out for any movement on these bills and to be at the ready to oppose them if and when that happens. Another bill to be on the watch for is Senate Bill 150 (SB150), a proposed new law that would require pre-conviction DNA testing for people charged with certain felonies, as well as DNA testing for people convicted of certain misdemeanors including simple assault and criminal trespass. SB 150 - referred to by some as Stop


and Swab - will be up for a vote when the House reconvenes in early January and has already passed the Senate. If the bill passes, police would be mandated to collect a DNA cheek swab sample at the time of arrest which would then be entered into state and county databases to see if the individual arrested is connected to any unsolved crimes. The DNA would also be passed onto Federal databases.


Corrections Secretary John Wetzel has argued that the decision to build instead of renovate the existing Graterford Prison was based on a cost-benefit study the agency conducted before starting construction, which indicated that the new prisons would eventually save enough money to While provisions of the law would require offset their hefty $400 million price tag. county and state databases to expunge We asked him many times for a copy of the DNA records if a person were to be the study but he never provided one. Decfound not guilty, it would be the perarcerate PA filed a Right-to-Know request, sonal burden of the acquitted to get such which was originally denied, but granted on records expunged on the Federal level. appeal. The DOC was forced to turn over The American Civil Liberties Union of four documents. While none of the docuPennsylvania has been actively opposing ments pass for an independently verified, the bill and the Philadelphia Daily News data driven study, they do reveal a series editorial board even wrote an appeal to of inaccurate comparisons and erroneous lawmakers to vote against the bill which numbers that have been manipulated to would violate peoples right to be free of justify what is, in reality, an unjustifiable invasive searches. construction project. For more details about the documents themselves, see our The fight against juvenile life without enclosed op-ed in the Patriot News, Corparole (JLWOP) sentencing here in Pennsylvania suffered a blow in late October as rections Dept. is misleading lawmakers to justify prison expansion. the State Supreme Court issued a disappointing and insupportable ruling in the case of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. lan Cunningham. In one stroke, the court decided to deny retroactive parole relief to the nearly 500 prisoners who were juveniles when sentenced to mandatory sentences of life imprisonment withcontinued on back page

statewide outreacH
Decarcerate PAs March to Harrisburg at the beginning of last summer was a first step in our efforts to build a statewide movement. We believe it is important to build power in Philadelphia, but we also believe we cannot successfully challenge the laws that drive mass incarceration unless we are also building power with allies around the state. We found support for our vision of A Peoples Budget, Not a Prison Budget everywhere we went, from small towns like Pottstown and Womelsdorf to larger cities like Reading and Harrisburg. We saw that communities across the state were suffering under Governor Corbetts cuts in funding for education and social services, and we learned that people everywhere believe we should be investing in creating strong communities, not more prison cells. In the months since the march, weve begun holding community meetings in Harrisburg and Reading, and Allentown. We see this as just the beginning. If you know people who might want to get involved who reside in those areas, or other parts of the state beyond Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, please ask them to be in touch with us.

Decarcerate PA arrives in Harrisburg after our 10 day march from Philadelphia

Every issue of our newsletter we feature one of the badass organizations that works with Decarcerate PA. So far over 85 organizations have signed our platform from large non-profits to street level social justice warriors - check out whos with us at !



DreamActivist PennsyLvania


Let tHis Be tHe year

Eduardo Ramirez, Graterford PA Let this be the year that keeps warm the feet of those who march towards freedom; let the light of day shine magnificently on the hearts of those who boldly proclaim their solidarity with justice; make still the violent winds of oppression so that the call for human dignity will be heard in the valley and upon the hill. Let this be the year that fear is forfeited and bravery is born nourished on an unwavering desire to be more than huddled masses, forgotten in the cold machine of politics; let the definitions of society and civility be reestablished to include all persons as mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, and lovers whose consent is sacred to the religiosity of democracy. Let this be the year that hunger is met with the Bread of Angels, ignorance is confronted by the understanding hands of love, and greed is overcome by the will of The People who believe that investments should be made in the liberation of people rather than their confinement.

Undocumented and Unafraid: PA Dreamers shut it down outside of the Montgomery County Correctional Facility

In July 2012, members of DreamActivist Pennsylvania sat in the road in front of the Montgomery County Correctional Facility to protest the jails new immigration detention contract with the Department of Homeland Security. The agreement between county and federal officials set aside 60 beds in MCCF for people detained by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Two undocumented young people risked deportation by being arrested at the protest, which was covered in the Philly media. Six months later, Montgomery County officials had cancelled the contract and the facility was no longer being used to detain immigrants. DreamActivist Pennsylvania is a grassroots group led by undocumented youth fighting mass detention and deportation through direct action. Its members are undocumented, unafraid, and unapologetic. They organize against deportations, rallying support for individuals by flooding ICE offices with calls and circulating petitions online. Currently, they are working to stop the deportation of Andres Chaves Hernandez, who is being detained at York County Prison. Andres came to the US from Mexico in 2000. In 2009, he met his wife, and they have a 1-year-old son together, who suffers from heart problems. Without his support, his wife and son may be evicted soon. Dream Activist Pennsylvania is publicizing Andress case and pressuring ICE to halt his deportation. Mass deportation is part of the problem of mass incarceration. The criminal legal system and the immigration system come together to criminalize and cage peopleespecially people of color, poor people, queer and transgender people, and young people. Incarceration, detention, and deportation all separate families and disrupt communities. The Montgomery County Correctional Facility is only a few miles down the road from SCI Graterford and the construction site for SCI Phoenix I and II, which will cost $400 million and house 4,100 people if completed. Together, we can work to stop the expansion of the prison-industrial complex in all its forms and repair the harm it has done to our communities. Find DreamActivist PA online at: http//

Instead of Prisons .. the flag from day 25

SuBmit testimony for our PeopLes HearinG!
On Wednesday, February 5th, Decarcerate PA and our allies will be holding a Peoples Hearing on Prison Expansion at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. Were holding our own hearing because legislators refuse to investigate the lies and misinformation that the DOC has used to justify the $400 million prison construction in Montgomery County. We will be inviting people to testify about the impacts of mass incarceration and prison expansion across Pennsylvania. We would love to have speakers read testimony from men and women inside Pennsylvanias prison system. If you would like to submit something to be read at the hearing, please mail it to us by January 31 at the latest.

Write to Judiciary Committee CHairmen GreenLeaf and Marsico!

We are holding the Peoples Hearing because the Senate and House Judiciary Committees have refused our demand that they hold hearings to investigate the $400 million prison expansion in Montgomery County, and the ways in which the DOC has lied to justify that construction. Please take a minute to write to Senator Stewart Greenleaf and Representative Ron Marsico to ask them to hold hearings on why the DOC is building more prisons and how prison expansion and the policies of mass incarceration impact people in Pennsylvania. You can write to them at: Senator Stewart Greenleaf Senate Box 203012 Harrisburg, PA 17120-3012 Representative Ron Marsico PO Box 202105 Harrisburg, PA 17120-2105

Invite EVERYONE to Join us in HarrisBurG on FeBruary 5tH!

They can register for a ride on one of the buses by visiting www.

HeLp us maKe mass incarceration an issue in tHe 2014 Governors Race!

Pennsylvania has an election for the next governor coming up in November 2014. The primary is in May 2014, and a number of Democratic candidates are competing to challenge Corbett. As Decarcerate PA, we are trying to decide how to engage with this election and make sure that mass incarceration, and the many policies that contribute to mass incarceration, are a major issue in this election. We would love to know how men and women on the inside would like to see us engage with candidates. Please share your thoughts on this, as well as any questions/issues you would like to see us raise with the candidates.

poLicy continued from paGe 2

out the possibility of parole sentences that the United States Supreme Court abolished as unconstitutional in 2012. As human rights activist and JLWOP prisoner Robert Saleem Holbrook notes: [I] n doing so, Pennsylvanias Supreme Court disregarded the precedent of three prior

US Supreme Court decisions in Roper, Graham and Miller that established juveniles are different from adults when it comes to imposing societys harshest punishments and should be afforded greater protections from the one size fits all mandatory sentences that have proliferated in the
that imprisonment exacer bates the problems we face. We there fore demand an immediate and lasting moratorium on all new prisons: no new prisons, no new county or city jails, no prison expansions, no new beds in county jails, no immigrant detention facilities, no private prisons. We also demand changes in policing, sentencing and legislation to reduce the prison population. We believe that public money should instead be spent on quality public schools, jobs and job training, community-based reentry services, health care and food access, drug and alcohol treatment programs, stable housing, restorative forms of justice and nonpunitive programs that address the root cause of violence in our communi ties. The task before

hysterical Tough on Crime era of mass imprisonment. The decision will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and individuals are encouraged to add their voice and energies to local grassroots struggles that are demanding justice for our youth.
us is as large as it is necessary. With your help, we can put an end to mass incarceration. If you know others who would also like to receive this newsletter, please encourage them to write us at the address below. This newsletter is also available online at

This quarterly newsletter is intended to be a tool of communication and information between Decarcerate PA members on the outside and people inside of Pennsylvania prisons. Decarcerate PA is a coalition of organi zations and individuals seeking an end to mass incarceration and the harms it brings our many communities. Decarcer ate PA seeks mechanisms to establish and maintain whole, healthy communities and believes

Box 40764 Philadelphia, PA 19107 (267) 217-3372