As metal gates swung open and then shut behind him, Are Høidal, the warden of Norway’s Halden prison, peered down the long, echoing main corridor of the State Correctional Institution-Chester, a medium-security prison a half-hour outside Philadelphia. Coming from what has been called the world’s most humane prison, Høidal said practices here in Pennsylvania can at times seem unaccountably harsh.
When Allen Woods’ son turned 6 recently, Woods couldn’t wish him a happy birthday in person, give him a hug, or marvel at how tall he’d grown. He had to send a card in the mail.
Twenty-four hours a day for 10 weeks, inmates in maroon uniforms with “D.O.C.” stamped on the backs held a death vigil over Frank Rodriguez. His colon cancer was terminal, but he refused to die – not behind the barbed wire and bars of Graterford Prison.
Tanya Curtis’ path to re-entry from prison last year looked suspiciously like a dead-end road. She was broke, for one thing. She didn’t have a high school diploma or GED. She had a history of addiction, drug dealing, petty crime.
Ivy Johnson spent 18 years in prison for killing someone in a fight and every day that death weighs on her. “To make amends I have to save another life,” she said. It wasn’t long ago that Johnson graduated from a 10-week program, Women Working for A Change,” that teaches women who have been in prison about self-esteem, active listening, healthy relationships and job preparation.
The fifth cohort of the Mothers in Charge “Women Working for a Change” program graduated during a ceremony Tuesday at the R2L Restaurant at Liberty Place in Center City Philadelphia. The program serves women returning to their communities after incarceration.is a Philadelphia based-violence prevention, education and intervention organization.
June is Reentry Awareness Month and The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com are part of the Philadelphia Reentry Reporting Collaborative, a solutions-oriented focus on issues facing people coming out of prison. The piece is part of an occasional series – across the region and across platforms – on the challenges of – and solutions to – prisoner reentry in Philadelphia.