Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Prison Expansion Protested in Pottstown

Prison expansion protesters marching from Philadelphia to Harrisburg staged a rally outside the Pottstown Regional Public Library Monday.

Blogger's Note: We received the following press release from Decarcerate PA:

Two dozen marchers making their way from Philadelphia to Harrisburg rallied at the Pottstown Regional Public Library Monday afternoon to demand an end to prison expansion and education cuts. 

The march is being organized by Decarcerate PA, a grassroots coalition, and is co-sponsored by a broad alliance of community groups, nonprofits, labor organizations, education advocates, and formerly incarcerated organizers. 

The “March for a People’s Budget: Stop Prison Expansion Now!” began on May 25th and is scheduled to arrive in the state capital on June 3rd—just as the legislature returns to debate the budget. 

The marchers are demanding that the General Assembly take a stand against Pennsylvania’s out-of-control prison growth. In particular, they are asking legislators not to grant the Department of Corrections its requested $68 million increase in funding while prison construction continues, and to cancel the $400 million prisons slated to be built on the grounds of SCI Graterford in Montgomery County.

Marchers arrived in Pottstown dressed as construction workers, holding “stop signs” reading “STOP Prison Expansion” while dancing and chanting, “Fund education, not incarceration!” 

The marchers are calling attention to the impact of recent budget cuts on Pottstown. “Pennsylvania does not want, does not need, and cannot afford any more prisons,” said Decarcerate PA member Brian Mertens. 

“We want to see our taxpayer dollars invested in the things that make our communities stronger, like education, health care and social services, not in building more prison cells.” 

The Pottstown School District has seen cuts of more than $1.5 million between 2010-2011 and the proposed budget for next year. Meanwhile, Governor Corbett’s budget for 2013-2014 includes a $68 million increase for the Department of Corrections, even as his administration claims the prison population is decreasing.

“We’ve written letters, circulated petitions, held protests, and even engaged in nonviolent acts of civil disobedience,” said Leana Cabral of Decarcerate PA, who was arrested in November for blocking a prison construction entrance with a school desk and an apple. 

“Governor Corbett and legislators like to talk about being prison reformers, but they don’t walk the walk. So we’re walking all the way to Harrisburg to make sure they know we won’t go away until Pennsylvania stops building prisons and starts reinvesting in our communities.”

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