Reimagining Leadership and Rebuilding Structures at Decarcerate PA

First of all, we would like to apologize for such a long newsletter delay. We have had a busy six months, both working to advance our two campaigns, and also re-imagining Decarecerate’s structure and work to more fully involve the leadership of our Inside Advisory Board (IAB).  

The Inside Advisory Board is a group made up of nine individuals in Pennsylvania Prisons. We have representatives from Graterford, Muncy, Cambridge Springs, Rockview, Greene, Coal Township, and Somerset. All Advisory Board members have actively participated in political movements against mass incarceration and have worked either directly with Decarcerate PA or a closely allied organization. Each Advisory Board member has been paired with an outside member of Decarcerate PA as their main point of contact for ongoing conversation and dialogue that can be passed along to the whole group. The outside liaisons are responsible for maintaining regular correspondence with advisory board members, bringing their feedback to the group, supporting Decarcerate in planning political education events, and bringing decisions to Decarcerate’s planning committee.

After several months of discussion, a core group of Decarcerate PA members met for a retreat in March to determine a new structure of Decarcerate PA. The resulting model centers the leadership and voices of the Inside Advisory Board, seeks to connect our campaign work and other organizing to our inside membership, and is working to develop avenues for new people to join Decarcerate PA and for all of us to engage in political education and development together.  

Decarcerate PA will have a monthly meeting that will rotate every other month between a Planning Meeting and an IAB Dinner and Dialogue meeting. The Planning Meeting will be where the core of our “business” decisions are made and where we receive in-depth reports from our campaigns (#No215Jail and CADBI). It will be a working meeting to get tasks done as we build our capacity. During the first six months, the Planning Meeting will also focus on developing the four priorities that came out of our winter anti-oppression retreat: political education; membership; relationship building and group self-care; and conflict resolution. The Planning Meeting will provide  a space to share information about what is happening with the IAB, to generate questions, and to generally better incorporate the voices of people inside in Decarcerate PA’s leadership.

The Dinner and Dialogue meeting will be where we welcome new members and engage in political education, in coordination with the inside members. We hope to work with interested IAB members and invite them to lead and/or help develop political education during these meetings on topics of their choice and expertise (for example, restorative justice or histories of anti-prison organizing).We hope this new structure helps us more clearly move forward and include more people into our work. We look forward to hearing feedback and plan to reflect on and evaluate this new model at the end of the year.