21 Things You Can Do Right Now About Prisons

1. Educate yourself about PA’s laws regarding the effectiveness of the Board of Pardons, and the $50 million a year, more than any other state, spent to keep older prisoners incarcerated under PA’s Life Without Parole.

2. Explore why does PA have more juvenile lifers than any other state and efforts to change?

3. Peruse the DOC budget and look for ways to reduce the cost; speak out!

4. Identify individual prisoners’ causes, their websites and blogs, and select one or more to support.

5. Identity activist groups and give your time, energy and/or money to help them.

6. If you are a member of a church, synagogue or mosque, start a prison ministry.7. Volunteer to assist an aspiring writer in prison through editing, and preparing for publication where possible.

8. Visit elected officials and ask them their positions on alternatives to incarceration; if they maintain a tough crime position, then educate them and tell them as a taxpayer you don’t want to continue funding an expensive, ineffective system that threatens public safety and cuts down on funds for education and health care.

9. Research PA law on mandatory sentencing and connect with groups proposing reform.

10.Make generous contributions to organizations whose goals you support such as CURE, PA Prison Society, Sagewriters and Global Kindness Revolution, Women Who Never Give Up, the Ray of Hope Project, Stop Prison Rape, the Philadelphia Innocence Project, Thresholds anti-death penalty and other worthy groups.

11. Speak out and write letters when a comedian or cop show uses the threat of rape to elicit a laugh or force a confession. Make the truth known — according to the Department of Justice statistics, there are a reported 88, 000 Americans raped in prison every year, 1/5 within 24 hours, by staff or fellow prisoners.

12. If you’re a lawyer, volunteer to help prisoners needing representation. Sagewriters has a few cases mentioned in Celling America’s Soul. There are thousands of others.

13. Arrange related film screenings and book signings at your church or organization.

14. Look for ways to support prisoner’s families through organizations like Women Who Never Give Up and CURE.

15. Approach editors of mainstream media about giving more voice to prison issues and outstanding examples of transformation by prisoners.

16. Support efforts of Lifers at Graterford who want to organize a public rally about life without parole in the spring of 2011.

17. Hold all people in prison and their families in your meditation and prayers.

18. Provide mentorship/ jobs to those with skills coming home from prison.

19. Suggest that your book club read some of the excellent writing by prisoners.

20. If you haven’t already seen them, check out movies like “The Shawshank Redemption” or “The Green Mile” to see how not much has changed.

21. Subscribe to prison publications like Graterfriends and the CURE Newsletter.

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