In March, LPP greatly benefited from the Raise the Region campaign. We want to again thank all donors and sponsors, whose contributions to LPP totaled $1,976, in turn helping us continue our prisoners’ rights advocacy work.
Our New Website
The Prison in Twelve Landscapes
On the Logic of Vengeance
By: Karen M. Morin, Board President
We are excited to announce that Charles Sackrey is the chosen recipient of the Lewisburg Prison Project’s annual Karl and Isabelle Patten Award. The award will be presented at the Lewisburg Prison Project’s annual meeting and gathering on January 23rd, 2016, at Cherry Alley Café. The Patten Award recognizes community activists who embody the spirit, commitment and work of Karl and Isabelle Patten.
Charles joined the Lewisburg community in 1980 when he began teaching political economy courses at Bucknell University, where he also served as an advisor to the Bucknell Progressive Caucus. Charles was active in the movement to divest Bucknell from stock holdings in Apartheid South Africa and in the campaign to establish a Living Wage for staff at Bucknell.
Charles has long been an inspiring voice of resistance against military operations in Vietnam, Nicaragua, Afghanistan and Iraq, and he has been arrested numerous times for acts of civil disobedience against nuclear power plants in Berwick, Oklahoma and Three Mile Island. Charles also made a cameo appearance at the Harvey Powers Theatre in the theatrical production of Minamata, a play about the destroyed lives of the villagers in Minamata, Japan who suffered severe mercury poisoning caused by the ravages of the Chisso Chemical Corporation.
For many years Charles was the Chairperson of Organizations United for the Environment (OUE). He was also the editor of its newsletter and wrote much of the copy. OUE, in conjunction with other organizations, successfully fought a subsidiary of Union Pacific in its quest to build a hazardous waste incinerator in White Deer and opposed National Gypsum in its quest to build a tire burner in that township. Charles is active in efforts to protect Pennsylvania’s beautiful Northern Tier from the destructive extraction of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation.
Charles describes himself as a Democratic Socialist. He was for years on the organizing committee of the Norman Thomas dinner in Lewisburg, a celebration of Lewisburg resident Norman Thomas, who attended Bucknell University and ran for U.S. President as a Socialist in five elections. After retiring from Bucknell, Charles opened the beloved Mondragon Bookstore in downtown Lewisburg, a collectively-run used bookstore in the spirit of the worker owned community of Mondragon, Spain.
Save the Date!
Lewisburg's Charles Sackrey to receive 2015 Patten Award
Lewisburg Prison Project
© Gabriel Amadeus Cooney
2015 /16 Annual Newsletter
What's Inside. . .
Saturday, January 23rd
6 - 9 pm
Cherry Alley Cafe
21 N 3rd St, Lewisburg, PA
LPP by the Numbers
Dr. Craig Haney is one of the foremost authorities on the psychological effects of imprisonment. Haney recently interviewed a group of prisoners at California’s notorious Pelican Bay Prison, most of whom had been in solitary confinement for a decade or more (“Solitary Confinement: Punished for Life,” New York Times, Aug. 3, 2015). The psychological damage and what Haney and other scholars term the “social death” caused by total isolation in tiny cells should not surprise anyone. What is noteworthy about his current research is that it was enabled by a successful federal class action lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, which argued that such prolonged restrictive housing violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
Although LPP is not invited ‘inside’ often, prison tours offer an important opportunity for us to observe correctional practices and juxtapose them with and against information supplied in the hundreds of inmate letters sent to us monthly. We were fortunate then to be invited recently to tour the new mental health unit at the Allenwood Federal Penitentiary – a unit also established as a result of a class action lawsuit, this one brought against the federal ‘supermax’ ADX facility in Colorado which argued that the prison failed to properly diagnose and treat prisoners who suffered serious mental illnesses (Cunningham v. Federal Bureau of Prisons).
The Allenwood staff welcomed us, answered all of our questions, and was open and informative about their treatment goals for what will be a 30-inmate unit at full capacity. This is certainly a step in the right direction and we are cautiously optimistic about the (cont. on page 2) (cont. from page 1) help they can offer. Yet, estimates are that hundreds of thousands of incarcerated men and women suffer debilitating mental illnesses throughout the U.S. prison system, and this unit will hardly scratch the surface of the most pressing needs among them – those of the 75,000+ prisoners confined in solitary cells in U.S. federal and state facilities alone (including in USP-Lewisburg’s SMU). If these inmates were not suffering mental illnesses prior to incarceration, they will most likely become mentally ill as a result of it. The best I can say is that the lawsuits bringing about these micro-changes are without question an essential vehicle for challenging state-sanctioned torture.
Receiving, processing, and effectively responding to hundreds of letters each month from prisoners throughout the Pennsylvania Middle Judicial District (and beyond) is a large part of what LPP does on a daily basis, and we have been incredibly fortunate this year to welcome back to the office Elayne Sobel, who has helped immensely in coordinating those tasks. We also welcomed Alex Skitolsky to the staff as our new Outreach Coordinator. In a very short time Alex has made impressive contributions to our many activities intended to raise public awareness about prison issues and conditions, for example in helping work already begun by Ben Vollmayr-Lee in launching our new website; and along with Paul Susman and Rebecca Myers, helping coordinate the visit by Toronto-based filmmaker Brett Story, who brought her work in progress, The Prison in Twelve Landscapes, to the Campus Theatre in late October.
We hope that you can all join us in honoring Charles Sackrey in January with the year’s Karl and Isabelle Patten Award. With boundless energy, intelligence, courage – along with healthy doses of humor and charm – Charles has been a steadfast leader in our community for decades, dedicating himself to challenging modes and manifestations of state and corporate corruption and injustice. The celebration of the Patten Award will be in conjunction with our annual member gathering at Cherry Alley Café on January 23rd, 2016, 6:00-9:00 pm. I hope you stop by to congratulate Charles and find out more about what the Lewisburg Prison Project is doing to help ensure prisoner human and civil rights in our area. Please plan to attend – the event is free and open to the public.
Influential writer and activist to be celebrated at LPP's annual party.
Interns & Volunteers
Lewisburg Prison Project's Annual Party
& Patten Award Celebration
#GivingTuesday Holiday Cards
Middle District Statistics
Every year, the Lewisburg Prison Project sends out hundreds of holiday cards to prisoners who have written to us throughout the year. This year, on December 1st, LPP will host holiday card-making sessions in three separate locations to correspond with #GivingTuesday – a global, social media inspired day of compassion and generosity. Our card-making gatherings will take place from 5-7 pm at CommUnity Zone in downtown Lewisburg (417 Market Street), and from 7-9 pm at Bucknell University (in the Bucknell Commons Building) and Susquehanna University (in 331 Fisher Hall).
Now in its fourth year, #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Observed on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) – after the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday – #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy with events throughout the year. The Lewisburg Prison Project (@PA_LPP) is a proud partner of #GivingTuesday, and our annual holiday card mailings are a perfect reflection of that campaign’s spirit.
We are fortunate to have help with our card-making this year from students at Bucknell and Susquehanna universities. McKayla Brady, LPP intern through the Arlin Adams Center for Law and Society, will be joined by Susquehanna University volunteer Kristina Reynolds in hosting the event on SU’s campus. At Bucknell University, the event will be hosted by five students from Dr. Karen Altendorf’s Criminology course - Cara Henning, Erin Jankowski, Griffin Robertson, Maureen Sullivan, and Cara Lamason. This dedicated group of students has worked together throughout the semester to communicate LPP’s mission to classmates and students across campus, and this #GivingTuesday event culminates a series of informational presentations they’ve conducted about our organization.
Please stop by one of these locations and spread a little generosity and compassion to those who can’t be with friends and family this holiday season. Blank cards, decorating supplies, postage (and snacks!) will be provided. Laughter, cheer, and a giving spirit are warmly welcomed!
By: Alex Skitolsky
"I received the holiday greeting card from you on Wednesday – the day before Christmas. I am very grateful and appreciate the kind and considerate thought."
"Thank you so much for taking the time out to send me a holiday card and for thinking of me this time of year."
Pennsylvania’s middle district includes:
6 Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities in Pennsylvania, housing 8,339 prisoners or 4.2% of all federal inmates.
12 Pennsylvania state prisons, housing 22,205 prisoners or 46% of all state inmates.
33 Pennsylvania county and regional prisons, housing tens of thousands of other prisoners.
2015 statistical data from the Federal Bureau of Prisons and PA Department of Corrections.
#GivingTuesday Holiday Card-Making
LPP Previews The Prison in Twelve Landscapes
LPP Board of Directors
Karen M. Morin, President
Angela Trop, Vice President
Steven Becker, Treasurer
Marty Ligare, Secretary
Dave Sprout, Paralegal
Elayne Sobel, Legal Assistant
Alex Skitolsky, Outreach Coordinator
By: Lissa Skitolsky
The recent attention given to the horror of mass incarceration is a heartening development for social justice. However, in drawing attention to the large and disproportionate number of Black men incarcerated in prisons and jails, the draconian length of their sentences, and the impact of their confinement on their communities, we avert our eyes from the real moral horror of the carceral archipelago. For even if we somehow reduced the number of prisoners and the racial disparity in sentencing, the conditions of confinement would still produce and reproduce atrocities that degrade and destroy the quality of prisoners’ lives. For all too often these conditions include the regular infliction of mental and physical pain. I am proud to be on the board of the Lewisburg Prison Project because we focus on drawing attention to these conditions and advocating for prisoners whose sentences do not simply entail the loss of freedom but instead the extra-legal loss of basic civic and human rights.
The conflation of pain and punishment is not a new feature of our criminal justice system. As the French philosopher Michel Foucault noted in his seminal book Discipline and Punish (Surveiller et Puntr, 1975), we seem unable to seriously question the assumption that those judged guilty of breaking the law deserve to feel more pain than law-abiding citizens. This assumption arises from the desire for vengeance, or the desire to harm the offender as the offender has harmed others.
If it is possible to distinguish between the logic of vengeance and the logic of justice, and we agree that a democratic state forswears the former for the latter, then we must admit that the gratuitous violence inflicted on our prisoner population under the name of ‘discipline’ exposes the hollowness and impotence of our democratic values. While the media focuses on the large number of prisoners in the United States, we at LPP work to expose the need for greater transparency in the department of corrections and greater accountability for their treatment of prisoners for the sake of our democratic ideals.
When we refer to the millions of Americans incarcerated in our prisons as ‘criminals,’ we reinforce the judgment that they are fundamentally different from the rest of us, made degenerate by a moral defect that requires their exclusion from society. Even as he prepared to be the first sitting president to visit a federal prison, President Obama explained that his efforts to push reforms applied only to non-violent offenders, as “I tend not to have a lot of sympathy when it comes to violent crime.” The public tends to view prisoners as moral monsters who ‘deserve’ pain rather than as vulnerable human beings who suffer from state violence. The moral atrocity of our criminal punishment system is not the fact that so many Americans are incarcerated but instead that they are so often harmed from the tortures of prison life. At LPP we advocate for all prisoners, no matter what their crime or the length of their sentence, as we believe that all prisoners are worthy of our sympathy and concern.
* * * * * * ** * * * * * *
On the Logic of Vengeance vs. Justice
On the evening of October 27th, the Lewisburg Prison Project joined a number of departmental sponsors from Bucknell University and Susquehanna University to host the award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist Brett Story. Brett was invited to present a special work-in-progress showing of her latest documentary project The Prison in Twelve Landscapes, which illustrates how the prison surrounds us and reaches into our daily lives and community environs in subtle and often surprising ways. Her non-narrative, episodic documentary observes the carceral subcurrents in twelve different locations in the United States, contending with the realities of imprisonment without ever showing the inside of the prison.
Brett’s first feature length film, Land of Destiny, won the Canadian Environmental Media award for Best Documentary in 2011, and was broadcast on both Canadian and American television. Last year, in recognition of her individual artistry contributions to the form, Brett was awarded the inaugural New Visions Award from the Documentary Organization of Canada. As a radio and print journalist, her work has been featured in The Nation and This magazines, The Montreal Mirror, the Toronto Review of Books. Her article, “The Prison Inside: A Genealogy of Solitary Confinement as Counter-Resistance,” appears in the recently-released book Historical Geographies of Prisons: Unlocking the Usable Carceral Past - co-edited by Karen M. Morin, LPP Board President.
Brett’s work-in-progress screening and subsequent Q&A discussion allowed the local community a glimpse into her process as a filmmaker, and afforded us rare insight into our own situation here in Lewisburg – in a town that shares its name with a maximum security federal penitentiary, in a state where more than 1 in 20 federal prisoners are housed. (In fact, were you to figure in as temporary residents of the Lewisburg Borough the 1,800 inmates of the Lewisburg Penitentiary along with the 3,600 students at Bucknell University, our permanent resident to student to inmate ratio is 4:2:1).
The prison is here. Indeed, in this age of rampant mass incarceration, in towns like Lewisburg, throughout Pennsylvania, and across the country, we may no longer refer to the prison as something that exists neatly and discretely somewhere else.. These institutions are not closed, hermetically-sealed and impervious environments, they are politicized spaces through which a good number of our fellow citizens pass; and, well beyond its razor wire fences and watchtowers, the cultural influence of carceral practices passes through the rest of society as well.
Beyond the direct and collateral consequences of mass incarceration, these practices perpetuate and reify themselves in complex, interdependent systems. In order to begin dismantling the prison in our minds and interpersonal relationships – the disciplinary structures that constrain and separate individuals – we have to trace the tentacles of that creature, show how they wrap around our daily lives and habits. For that reason, The Prison in Twelve Landscapes marks not merely an interesting, experimental documentary about incarceration, it represents a new and welcomed way of thinking about prison. To learn more about the film and support its completion, please visit: www.prisonlandscapes.com/#support
Brett Story at the Campus Theatre
Kristina Reynolds Aby Abdullahi
The Lewisburg Prison Project is a 501(c)(3) organization. All donations are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law.
The Lewisburg Prison Project depends on the dedication and energy of volunteers, interns, and service learning groups. We're grateful for the efforts of these kind individuals:
This year LPP increased our web presence with a revamped website, Facebook page, and Twitter account. We're quickly approaching 200 likes on Facebook, and we now have over 100 Twitter followers! If you haven't already, please connect with us there - it's the best way to keep up on current news and events.
The new website design was created by Bucknell University students Kiren Donaldson, Joshua Ilutiza, Kendall Danforth, and Stephanie Pino under the supervision of LPP board member Dr. Ben Vollmayr-Lee. Alex Skitolsky, LPP Outreach Coordinator, made additional contributions to the overall design. Aby Abdullahi and Ashley Pena, first-year students at Bucknell's Social Justice Residential College, further researched and arranged the websites's news archives this fall.
LPP's website allows users to join our mailing list, make safe and secure donations via Paypal, and overview our social media posts. Check it out!
Lewisburg Prison Project's New Website!
Lewisburg Prison Project
P.O. Box 128
Lewisburg, PA 17837
LPP MISSION STATEMENT
LPP is dedicated to the principle that prisoners are persons with indisputable rights to justice. We strive to provide safeguards for their constitutional human rights. We are, then, concerned with conditions of confinement. We counsel, assist, and visit prisoners when they encounter problems they perceive as illegal or unfair. On appropriate occasions we litigate. We are also dedicated to educating both prisoners and the general public on prisoner rights and conditions in federal, state, and county prisons.
2015 LPP by the Numbers
Letters from federal prisoners:
Letters from state & county prisoners:
Letters from out-of-state prisoners:
Total number of legal bulletins ordered:
www.lewisburgprisonproject.org has a new look and expanded content.