Our unique access gives us the ability to tell the truest story of prison conditions, increasing transparency and accountability. We use the information learned directly from those experiencing incarceration to inform advocacy. Through information gathering, communication, coalition building and outreach, we spark empathy and action that promotes the health, safety and dignity of people living behind bars.
Medical copays have always compromised the health of incarcerated people, even when there wasn’t a pandemic raging. Five dollars for a medical visit is a barrier for incarcerated people, who depend on their families and meager prison wages for what little money they have. In Pennsylvania, prison jobs pay between $0.19 and $0.51 an hour. Incarcerated people already have to stretch their scant earnings to cover phone calls home, toiletries, extra clothes and blankets, and supplemental food from the commissary.
Avoiding medical care for minor issues can lead to serious consequences for incarcerated individuals and their prison community, as their health further deteriorates or leads to the infection of others. Illnesses worsen when people avoid the doctor, which means more aggressive and more expensive treatment when they can no longer go without it. Moreover, copays put correctional staff and the greater community at risk. If incarcerated people are sick and suffering staff will be too.
Along with our partners at Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) we are calling on all state and county officials to permanently eliminate all medical copays in prisons and jails. At the state level, we urge elected representatives to pass legislation ending the $5 copay in state prisons.
With the constant stress of worrying about medical co-pays I find myself having to sacrificing my phone calls with my daughters which is not fair to the so then I am forced to make a even bigger choice do I go without food or soap so that I can still make calls to my daughters. -Incarcerated individual,
Mass incarceration disproportionately impacts poor families of color, who often lack the resources necessary to visit a loved one. Over 23,000 Philadelphians are incarcerated in prisons that are more than three hours away.
Staying in touch and visiting a loved one has long been a problem for people impacted by incarceration. Visiting is expensive, requiring access to a car, time off of work, and oftentimes a hotel stay. Prison visiting policies are far more restrictive now than before the pandemic, when it was already a challenge for loved ones to stay connected.
We are working to dismantle barriers to connection and unite PA families by resuming transportation programs and by eliminating the burdensome and discriminatory scheduling system.
All people deserve access to the people they love. My Dad was in prison and being able to see him regularly made all the difference."-Family member
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck Pennsylvania state prisons, the Department of Corrections closed prison dining halls and began delivering all meals to the cells or housing units of people in custody. It was one of many new restrictions meant to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus behind bars that radically changed the day-to-day life of incarcerated people. But unlike other temporary measures to mitigate viral spread, eating in the relative isolation of cells or housing units has become part of their new normal. Two years after the pandemic began, meals are still being delivered to incarcerated people, and the department is considering closing dining halls permanently.
We are advocating for dining hall service to resume, for the creation of dining hall protocols that support calmer, healthier and more enjoyable eating experiences (like giving people enough time to eat), and improving the overall food quality to provide nutritious, filling and flavorful meals.
“[In the dining hall] I get to sit and eat a meal at a table like a human, and not on my bed next to a toilet.” -incarcerated individual, SCI FRACKVILLE