Three days into a 10-day, 113-mile march across Pennsylvania, Fatimah Islam-Hernandez had a realization: "I have learned that when I want to have a powerful breakthrough in my life, I have to create a space, a clearing, so that my stand can be seen," wrote Islam-Hernandez. "No matter how unreasonable, no matter what fears I have."
Islam-Hernandez is an educator and parent in Philadelphia whose partner is one of the 51,370 people locked inside Pennsylvania's sprawling state prison system. Her reflection came as part of the "March for a People's Budget- Stop Prison Expansion Now" in Pennsylvania. The March, which left Philadelphia on May 25 and ended with a major rally in Harrisburg on June 3, is a sign of how new movements against imprisonment and punishment have been creating a new clearing by targeting the state budgeting process with creative modes of direct action.
July 2, 2013 For Immediate ReleaseAttention: News Desk
Harrisburg, PA – Despite statewide opposition, on Sunday, June 30, the Pennsylvania General Assembly approved a budget for FY2013-2014 that provides a $75 million budget increase for the Department of Corrections (DOC). Despite massive protests and hundreds of calls, postcards, and emails from constituents in districts across Pennsylvania, legislators inexplicably gave the state prison system an even larger budget increase than Governor Corbett initially requested.
This expansive increase flies in the face of efforts by grassroots groups like Decarcerate PA, who recently marched from Philadelphia to Harrisburg to demand that the legislature vote no on an increased prison budget, cancel ongoing prison expansion projects, and invest in creating strong communities instead.
With what Pennsylvania’s spending on new prisons, our school-funding crisis could be resolved.
Posted: Thu, Jun. 27, 2013, 12:00 AM
Over the past several weeks, as teachers and students have protested in the streets over the devastating layoffs of 3,859 Philadelphia public-school employees, workers at a sprawling construction site 30 miles to the north have been making orderly progress. Their work site? The future state prisons, Phoenix I and II, that is planned to replace Montgomery County’s State Correctional Institution at Graterford, at a $400 million price tag.
At a time when Philly schools are facing a $304 million budget gap, critics say the construction reflects backward priorities — particularly on the part of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who has cut nearly $1 billion from public-school funding. That sentiment has spread in recent weeks, going viral on Facebook and prompting a widely criticized performance by Mayor Michael Nutter on MSNBC.
ON SATURDAY, May 25, 45 people set off on foot from the steps of Philadelphia's Art Museum on a 113-mile mission to build a different future for Pennsylvania. Over the next 10 days, members of Decarcerate PA and ally organizations marched from Philadelphia to Harrisburg to demand "a people's budget, not a prison budget."
This diverse group of marchers - students, teachers, parents, organizers, and men and women who have spent decades in prison - demanded that Gov. Corbett and the state Legislature cancel the unnecessary $400 million prison-construction project in Montgomery County and invest those resources into fully funding public education, maintaining much-needed social services and helping people across the state access quality, affordable health care.
I followed up my interview with Sesame Street with an interview with Malissa Gamble, a Philadelphia woman who was formerly incarcerated and separated from her children. Malissa is a member of Decarcerate PA and the founder of The Time is Now to Make a Change.
While on the recent Decarcerate PA 10-day march from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, I wrote to comment on reports of $400 million in prison construction slated for Montgomery County. State prisons chief John Wetzel will be adding some 1,000 beds, yet his department's projections indicate those beds aren't needed. Pennsylvania prison growth has long been out of control. We need to reduce the prison population and invest in strong, safe, and stable communities. Wetzel likes to talk about being a prison reformer, but refuses to walk the walk. That's why Decarcerate PA members walked in heat and rain to offer Harrisburg leaders a vision for real change.
Miembros de Decarcerate PA marcharon y protestaron porque el Departamento de Correccionales de Pensilvania (PCD) ha solicitado $68 millones adicionales, y está construyendo una cárcel de $400 millones en Graterford en el condado Montgomery.
0 in By Josh Fatzick / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau
HARRISBURG -- A group of about 40 activists calling for a moratorium on new prison funding, left Philadelphia on Saturday on a nine-day-long march to Harrisburg for what it calls "a people's budget, not a prison budget."
Members of Decarcerate PA, a grass-roots organization with an eclectic group of protesters that include former prisoners, family members of current prisoners and students whose schools are being closed due to budget cuts, planned the march to bring awareness to cuts in education funding and to protest the construction of two new prisons outside Philadelphia in Montgomery County.