Families Deliver Holiday Cards to Wolf in Protest of Prison Mail Policies
Protestors to Wolf: “Don’t be a Grinch! Let us send cards to our loved ones”
PHILADELPHIA, PA (December 17, 2018) On Tuesday, December 18 at noon, family and friends of people in prison and dozens of supporters will gather at Gov. Wolf’s Philadelphia office (110 N. 8th Street) to deliver the holiday cards they are unable to send to their loved ones. This fall, Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel and Governor Tom Wolf rolled out some of the most punitive anti-prisoner policies in the country. These changes mean people in prison can no longer receive original photos, letters, or cards.
“It is already so hard to be separated from loved ones during the holidays,” said Lorraine Haw, a member of the Coalition to Abolish Death By Incarceration (CADBI) and the emcee for the event. “To not even be able to send my son a card that he can hold in his hands is heartbreaking. We know that family and community ties prevent recidivism and help build safe, healthy communities. Why is Governor Wolf trying to keep us apart?”
Over the last month, family members and friends have made hundreds of holiday cards urging the Governor to repeal these policies. At Tuesday’s event, organizers will hold a rally and press conference outside Gov. Wolf’s office and then attempt to deliver the cards to his staff. Rally speakers include family members of people in Pennsylvania prisons, representatives from the Coalition to Abolish Death By Incarceration, Decarcerate PA, Books Through Bars, the Human Rights Coalition, Amistad Law Project, and others.
“These policies are immoral, expensive, and ineffective,” said Possum Talarico of Books Through Bars. “Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections need to listen to their constituents and repeal these policies immediately. And we will keep the pressure on until they do.”
Under the new rules, mail is now sent to a private company in Florida, where it is opened, scanned, and emailed to the prisons to be printed and delivered. Originals are destroyed and scans are kept in a searchable database. Confidential legal mail is photocopied, with scans of the highly sensitive documents kept on file for 15 days. These policy changes are costing PA taxpayers $15 million, and they are cutting off critical avenues of communication and support between Pennsylvanians on both sides of the prison walls.
“Money can be spent to better the opportunities and better equip people in prison for life on the outside, rather than depriving them of communications, correspondence, and connections with family, friends and loved ones,” said Daniel Gant, a CADBI member who is currently incarcerated in the PA DOC. “Under the new system, mail has been extremely late, pictures blurred, pages missing, the personalization of a letter removed. We are walking the line of cruel and unusual punishment of the unfortunate, while the wealthy and well connected thrive off our misfortune.”