Grantee Spotlight: Decarcerate PA

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Decarcerate PA says money for new prisons is a trade-off the governor is making. Photo: multi.lectical

Founded in 2011, Decarcerate PA is a new Bread & Roses One Percent Fund grantee that aims to create a safe, healthy future without prisons. A coalition of area criminal justice reform groups, Decarcerate PA has a three-point platform: no new prisons, a decrease in incarceration overall, and more community reinvestment.

The group formed in response to Governor Corbett’s cuts to education funding to help raise millions of dollars for more beds in existing prisons and the construction of three new prisons.

“Pennsylvania does not need another prison,” says Hakim Ali of Decarcerate PA. “Other states are finding ways to reduce their prison populations and close prisons. It’s time Pennsylvania caught up to the rest of the country.”

The many groups that constitute Decarcerate PA, including eight Bread & Roses Phoebus Criminal Justice Initiative grantees, have made it clear that money for new prisons comes at the expense of other priorities. The $685 million designated for new and expanded prisons is money that is being taken away from education. A poster at a recent Decarcerate march said it well: “$100 million for 1,000 new prison beds = 365 classrooms closed.”

Education and prisons are inextricably linked. When Governor Corbett takes money away from public schools and increases spending for new prisons, the school-to-prison pipeline gets stronger.

“Instead of supporting our children to develop and thrive, Governor Corbett’s budget sacrifices our children’s futures before they’re even given a chance,” says Darlene Brooks, a member of Action United. “When we should be preparing them for graduation and positive contributions to our society, Corbett is putting them on a track to fill prison beds.”