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Judith Trustone Addressing the Issue of Mass Incarceration on the Day of Empathy at Philadelphia City Hall


Immediate Press Release

March 9, 2019
Booker Hosts Roundtable with New Jersey Women Leaders
NEWARK, NJ – U.S. Senator Cory Booker hosted a roundtable discussion with women stakeholders in his office in Newark to mark Women’s History Month. Leaders from across the state joined Senator Booker to discuss their priorities and voice the need to defend women’s rights.
<image002.jpeg>“We have made tremendous strides in the fight for gender equality, but there is still much work to be done,” said Senator Booker. “I am so grateful to the women who joined me today to discuss the various and systemic issues women face in all walks of life, from healthcare, to workplace discrimination, to women’s prison conditions.”

“I cannot think of a better way to celebrate Women’s History Month than with a Senator who has done so much for all types of women, including the women who have been affected by the crisis of mass incarceration in America. Senator Booker has been at the forefront of reforming our criminal justice system and has helped enact real change through his work in the Senate on the First Step Act and now, continues to push the movement forward with the Next Step Act. I look forward to continuing to work with him to restore the dignity for incarcerated women,” said Gale Mohammed, from Women Who Never Give Up. 

“New Jersey thanks Senator Booker for choosing to celebrate Women’s History Month/ International Women’s Day with a frank discussion on issues facing women today. With the rise in authoritarianism under the current administration, we discussed how women of color provide an easy and vulnerable target. In a diverse state like New Jersey, there are vibrant communities of color and immigrants from all over the world where women struggle to find their voice. We look forward to working with Senator Booker to raise awareness and find solutions for their concerns. NOW is committed to diversifying the feminist movement and fighting for equal opportunities for all women,” said Anjali Mehrotra, Executive Director of National Organization for Women of New Jersey.

“The Alice Paul Institute is pleased to participate in this roundtable discussion with Senator Cory Booker and other leading organizations dedicated to highlighting issues important to women and girls. API applauds Booker’s support of the Equal Rights Amendment, which was written and introduced by Alice Paul in 1923 but has yet to be ratified to the U.S. Constitution. Senator Booker has shared stories about Alice Paul and her life’s work fighting for gender equality in the United States, he supported the Alice Paul Congressional Gold Medal Act in 2018, and has met with members of API’s Girls Leadership Council to learn what issues are important to teen girls. The Alice Paul Institute is dedicated to continuing Alice Paul’s and we look forward to working with Senator Booker to ensure our political system and laws provide true and lasting gender equality,” said Krista Niles, Marketing and Civic Engagement, Alice Paul Institute. 

“In order to build a safer, more equitable New Jersey, the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault works to dismantle the intersectional forms of oppression that permit and promote violence. Meeting with Senator Booker, and our allies in this work across New Jersey, serves as the perfect opportunity to remember that we are never in this fight alone. It takes generations of steadfast activism and collaboration to make progress. While during Women’s History Month, we recognize how far we’ve come – it’s important to remember we still have so far to go. Onward!” said Patricia Teffenhart, Executive Director of New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

“Last year alone, Title X made it possible for nearly 110,000 people to access family planning services through the New Jersey Family Planning League’s statewide network of providers. During this Women’s History Month let us remember that accessible affordable patient-centered healthcare is critical to supporting women in defining for themselves what their families will look like, and pursuing the dreams and futures they imagine. NJFPL is deeply concerned about the recent attempts to undermine the successful Title X program, and thankful for the support of Senator Booker and our partners at today’s roundtable discussion in protecting access to affordable, quality healthcare,” said Rachel Baum, Vice President of Program Services for New Jersey Family Planning League.
“Planned Parenthood in New Jersey is grateful to Senator Booker for holding this roundtable event. Health care is a human right. During Women’s History Month, it’s especially important to highlight how vital high-quality, affordable reproductive health care is. Planned Parenthood health centers in New Jersey see nearly 70,000 patients annually. The patients we serve come to us for routine gynecological care, STD testing and treatment, cancer screenings, and abortion care. We’re proud to serve the women of New Jersey and all of our patients. We’re thankful that Senator Booker has highlighted the important work done in Planned Parenthood health centers in New Jersey with this event. Despite recent attacks by the Trump-Pence administration, we will continue to provide care, no matter what,” said Roslyn Rogers Collins, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan New Jersey.
“When we ensure women have paycheck fairness and family-friendly workplaces, we transform not only their lives but the lives of their families and communities. Policies like equal pay, paid family leave and paid sick days are essential stepping stones on the road to economic security and the middle class. We have seen how these policies have transformed lives here in New Jersey and we hope to see you them adopted at the national level as well,” said Dena Mottola Jaborska, Associate Director at New Jersey Citizen Action.

“On the heels of International Women’s Day, we are honored to sit with Senator Booker to talk about women’s rights and the future of equality for women in the state of New Jersey and in our great country. A fierce advocate for women’s rights and human rights, Senator Booker continues to battle injustice, violence and inequality against women on the national stage,” said Erin Chung, Executive Director at Women For Progress.

John N. Mitchell Tribune Staff Writer Mar 5, 2019  Shawn Baker, locked up for eight years, is now working and productive — John Mitchell John N. Mitchell Tribune Staff Writer


After her release from prison in November 2017, Shawn Baker
needed help.

“I didn’t know what to do next,” said Baker, who served eight
years on an aggravated assault charge. “You are by yourself
when you get out and you can become desperate if you don’t
have help.”

She got that help through  Ardella’s House , a nonprofit that helps
incarcerated women transition back into society. They helped her
find a job with  Peerstar LLC , which helps incarcerated women find
housing and jobs upon their release from jail.“I’m helping people,”
Baker said. “People helped me.”On Tuesday at City Hall, Baker
joined local politicians, lawmakers and other stakeholders
participating in the  National Day of Empathy (NDE). The brainchild
of #cut50, NDE is a national bipartisan program whose goal is to
cut the national prison population in half over the next 10 years.

Almost 3 million Americans were behind bars at the end of
2016,  according to the Prison Policy Initiative .“We’re trying to

humanize mass incarceration. If you listen to the stories, they are
powerful,” said Tonie Willis, executive director at Ardella’s House
and the #cut50 Pennsylvania ambassador. “Once the people tell
the story, they want you to take their story and  put  a face to mass
incarceration. Words are powerful. Our hope is that if you listen to
the words it might make you move on empathy and think about
the things that incarcerated people are going through.”

The program, which ran for about three hours, included brief
addresses by state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, City Council
members Jannie Blackwell and Curtis Jones and state Reps.
Jordan Harris and Joanna McClinton. Other speakers, all of them
addressing the subject of empathy, included District Attorney
Larry Krasner and Keia Bradford-Grey, chief defender of the
Philadelphia Defenders Association.

Bradford-Grey wanted to drive  home  the point that the day was
not about creating good feelings around a discussion about
empathy, but about encouraging those who participated in the
session — there were about 100 people in attendance — to
consciously guard against having biases against the incarcerated
and the formerly incarcerated.

“Empathy will guide our actions. If you understand people and
human capacity, you  start  to see the value in them,” Bradford-
Grey said. “When you start to see the value in them, you don’t just
make these biased decisions that keep them in cages or not give
them opportunities when they come out.

“Empathy helps us to recognize people for who they are rather
than what they may have done in their worst moments,” she
continued, “and not label them forever based on that factor.”

Baker didn’t speak with the elected officials on Tuesday. However,
that does not prevent her from telling others about her
experiences and those who helped her.

“I worked on myself while I was in jail. I was determined to come
out a better person,” Baker said. “And then others helped me. So I
feel obligated to do the same thing for other people going through
what I’ve been through.”

Mail and Security Policies ‘idiotic’ and Unconstitutional


DOC says safety is paramount, policies have already cut drug incidents in half

Story & photo by Cindy Bailey, GreeneSpeak Editor/Publisher


Rices Landing–Brenda Emerick, 59, of Rices Landing, sent GreeneSpeak a very articulate Letter to the Editor regarding controversial mail and security policies implemented recently at PA state prisons. These measures were announced in September, after 57 staff were sickened at prisons statewide. The state Dept. of Corrections linked the illnesses with expo- sure to synthetic cannabinoids.

ick’s son has refused to accept his legal mail and has filed a lawsuit against the DOC.

Emerick sees the introduction of body scanners and x-rays as a violation of privacy.

page5image1467754048 page5image1467754672

The new regulations concern legal and non-legal inmate mail, body scanners, drone detection, ion scanners which can detect synthetic cannabinoids, and visiting room prac- tices and books.

Also, the vending machines had been off limits, but are supposed to be available by Dec. 10th. “To restrict visitors from purchasing food is detrimental to building family ties,” she said, adding that she always looks forward to buying her son a treat, as visitors are not permitted to bring in food. Emerick’s saga began April 30, 2002. According to the Pocono Record, on that day, her son Heath Gray, then 22, was with a man named Keith Young, 25, who started a fire that killed a five-year-old boy. Eventually, both men were convicted of felony murder and sentenced to life without parole. Young avoided a death sentence by testifying that Gray helped start the fire.

Emerick and her husband who raised the boy with her since he was seven moved to Rices Landing in 2004 from the Williamsport area where this all transpired, so they could visit Heath more often. Through the years, this plucky mom has become quite knowledgeable about prison life and inmates’ rights, penning articles for a newsletter called “Fight for Lifers” and joining the PA Prison Society advocacy group, where she became a “friendly visitor,” meaning she can visit anyone at any state prison.

After more than 16 years, Emerick has become accustomed to wending her way through a life nobody really wants. She looks forward to every minute of the six days each month she’s permitted to visit Heath, where they talk and play Scrabble and formerly enjoyed sharing a snack. She sees the these hastily adopted security policies as unconstitutional and something that could derail the fragile and few joys they can still share together.

In fact, a number of lawsuits have been filed by plaintiffs who say the policies violate the First Amendment, including the ACLU, Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, Abolitionist Law Center and Amistad Law Project.

But Wetzel emphasizes that safety is paramount, noting, “After an unprecedented number of exposures to dangerous sub- stances and 14-day lockdown, we’re are pleased to announce progress, an expansion of our book policy, and the data that indicates our staff, inmates, and visitors are safer today than

But DOC Secretary John Wetzel maintains that, “These policies were put in place for safety and to eradicate drugs from the prisons.” A 45-day report, issued Oct. 19, indicated that the policies “are working.”

Gray, now 39, maintains his innocence.

According to DOC statistics, emergency room visits for employee drug exposure dropped from 48 to 8; drug finds dropped by 46 percent; positive drug tests from random inmate drug tests dropped by half; inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-staff assaults declined; and drug-related inmate misconducts were cut in half.

At home in Rices Landing, Brenda Emerick holds her favorite photo of her son Heath as a preschooler.

they were late last summer.”
State Corrections Officers Union President Jason Bloom said,

“Our union supports these policy changes…because they protect our staff, who are dedicated public servants and who deserve to come home safely each day.”

Meanwhile Emerick is coping with the situation, knowing that her son accepts his fate, believing that his bad decision to be with a violent person one night may have caused him to loose his freedom but saved his soul.

“He has found God and has read the Bible numerous times,” she says. “He teaches Bible classes and writes Bible study les- sons that he mails to people. He’s an awesome person.” Look- ing back, her voice still trembles as she says, “When they came and arrested him, I was in shock, I couldn’t eat, sleep, read, finish a sentence or complete a conversation.” But these days she says, “I do what I have to do to keep living life to its fullest.”

And that includes continuing to advocate for Heath and other inmates, in regard to these questionable security practices that she sees as efforts to silence inmates, adding, “These policies are dehumanizing. Prisoners need to connect with their families, the DOC is trying to take any meaningful communication away, yet expecting the prisoners to be docile.”

But Emerick, whose son is incarcerated at SCI-Greene in Waynesburg, says, “I’m outraged that the state will spend $15 million a year for idiotic policies that are detrimental…. These new policies are so upsetting because the DOC

is abusing their power while oppressing the already op- pressed.”

Non-legal mail is now being shipped to a Florida process- ing company which scans and emails the items, which are then destroyed. The images are printed out at the various prisons.

“So a child making a birthday card for someone: that card will never be touched by the recipient, ” Emerick says. Nor- mally she corresponds with two dozen inmates who have no family, but this year she refuses to send Christmas cards that will be thrown away. Photos printed out are often unrecog- nizable and four pages of material are squeezed onto one letter-sized sheet.

Legal mail is opened, copied, stored for 45 days, and destroyed. Inmates receive copies which have been handled by several people. Concerned about confidentiality, Emer-


By Cindy Balley

Greenspeak Editor/Publisher

An Experimental Take on Prisons

I recommend this thought provoking article published in Mother Jones about creating a more humane prison system:





PHILADELPHIA, PA (USA) – 20 July 2017 – A collaboration between the OPERATION FRESH START™ Working Group and the USA International Men’s Day Team has culminated in the Fourth Annual International Day of Prayer for Men and Boys becoming a launch vehicle for the SCI Graterford, PA Lifers Public Safety Initiative which is a component of OPERATION FRESH START ™. The Honorable James M. DeLeon, a highly acclaimed jurist in the Criminal Court Division of Philadelphia’s Municipal Court, is the architect of OPERATION FRESH START ™ which is being heralded as a Global Model for eradicating recidivism and creating pathways to reintegration and real-life options for formerly incarcerated Men and Women who return to our communities – for the most part – uneducated, unskilled, and unemployable and in dire need of spiritual, emotional, and psychological healing.

OPERATION FRESH START™ is utilizing the Fourth Annual International Day of Prayer for Men and Boys which is being observed under the theme, “Transcending Boundaries” on Sunday, 5 November 2017 as a “Call To Action” for religious leaders and religious institutions of all faiths to implement the SCI Graterford, PA Lifers Public Safety Initiative by, among other things, creating Transformational Centers which will help detoxify the spiritually, psychologically, and emotionally toxic environment in our communities – an environment which is a breeding ground for crime, blight, dysfunctional behavior, economic turpitude, and hopelessness – and an environment that subliminally drives the decision making and actions of at-risk youths. The SCI Graterford, PA Lifers Public Safety Initiative is a blueprint for moving the key players — Returning Citizens — into the equation of eradicating critical challenges that prevent at-risk youths from reaching their full potential; resisting the gravitational pull of the streets and crime; and maturing into productive and purpose-driven adults. OPERATION FRESH START ™ and the SCI Graterford, PA Lifers Public Safety Initiative are in alignment with the mission of the International Day of Prayer for Men and Boys – a mission which involves helping at risk-youths – Our Children – transcend the key challenges of crime, hopelessness, lack of male role models, lack of access to legitimate real-life options, and making their journey from childhood to adulthood in a spiritually, psychologically, and emotionally toxic environment.

For information about OPERATION FRESH START ™ and the Fourth Annual International Day of Prayer for Men and Boys which is serving as a launch vehicle for the SCI Graterford, PA Lifers Public Safety Initaitive, contact the USA International Men’s Day Team at: or 267-581-3963.

Kindness in the News

This is a great story about a young woman who took time to notice another person in need of help. A few minutes of their exchange went viral and has now expanded into the awareness of others.

That’s the magic of Kindness!