Categories
Art & Storytelling Events

Call for Artists: Empathy is the Seed 

Let’s Get Free’s 5th Annual Art Show 
Featuring artists on both sides of the walls

Call for Art and Poems 

This art show is open to people currently in prison and people on the outside.This year’s show will have both online and in person elements. Select pieces will be shown in the physical gallery. All entries will be entered into the contest. 

This year’s theme: Empathy is the Seed, Truth is the Water, Solidarity is the Bloomage 

This is a recipe we think is crucial to shifting our world from the paradigm of punishment to that of healing. 

Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Truth: the quality or state of being in accordance with fact or reality Solidarity: unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group. Bloomage: The blossoms or bloom of a plant or area taken collectively.

Submissions: 
We love receiving artwork connected to the theme.

Visual Art: All mediums welcome, no size restrictions. Illustrations, collage, paintings, sculpture, charcoal, textiles, cross stitch, sculpture, blankets…   

Poetry: We’re adding poetry to our art show this year! This is a new addition to our annual art show so our process is unfolding. We welcome your poems. 

Deadline to Submit Art: August 30, 2021
Art Show Sign Up Form

The show will open in mid November and have in person and online elements. Feel free to reach out if you can’t make the deadline. 

Send Art and Poems To: Let’s Get Free: 460 Melwood Ave #300, Pittsburgh, PA, 15213:

Please include: Title, Medium and artists statement 

Digital Only pieces will not be accepted this year, If you are an outside digital artist please send us a physical copy of your art to be considered in the contest. 

Let’s Get Free’s 5th Annual Art Show is a fundraiser. By submitting art or poems to the show you are consenting for your art to be auctioned and sold to raise money to support Let’s Get Free. 

This is a contest. Like last year, there will be two contest categories: Artists on the Inside and Artists on the Outside.The contest categories and prizes will be a little different this year than last year if you participated in that show.

Prizes for Artists/Poets on the Inside

Visual Art Prizes
Piece that best expresses Empathy: $100
Piece that best expresses Solidarity: $100
Piece that best expresses Truth: $100
Piece that best ties the theme all together: $100
Best use of materials $100
Best Textile: $100
People’s Choice Award: $100

Poetry Prizes

Poem that best ties the theme all together: $100
People’s Choice Award: $100

Prizes for Artists/Poets on the Outside

Visual Artists in Solidarity Prizes

Piece that best ties the theme all together: $100
People’s Choice Award: $100

Poets in Solidarity Prizes

Poem that best ties the theme all together: $100
People’s Choice Award: $100

Scholarships for Art Supplies: If you are incarcerated and participated in our contest last year or any of our previous art shows, you are eligible for an art supply scholarship if you are planning to participate in this year’s show. Please write for more details. There is a limited number of scholarships with priority to women and trans prisoners. 

T H A N K Y O U

Deadline to Submit Art: August 30, 2021
Art Show Sign Up Form

Categories
Commutation

Commutation Kit 2021

Avis Lee says, “You got this!” Here she is on her 1st day of work
Avis is the 4th woman to receive commutation in Pennsylvania in 30 years.

Let’s Get Free! has updated our COMMUTATION support Kit

New Updates & Friendly Reminders as of March 2021

Download the 2021 Commutation Kit

These tips are written for people sentenced to life without parole but anyone filing for commutation can benefit from them. The process is open to anyone who has been convicted of anything.

  • Your filing Date & Patience. This process requires a lot of patience! After you send in your application it will be officially “filed.” This means the DOC submitted it to the Board of Pardons; once received and reviewed, you should receive correspondence from the Board that has your Filing Date. From that point, it can take up to two years from your filing date to get through the commutation process.  With the Board’s goal of getting the time line reduced to 1-year, this target has not yet been reached due to several factors: COVID; increased number of applications; and limited Prison and Board capacity.
  • Naomi Blount, a Commutation Specialist working for the Lt. Governor, advises: “Stick to the questions asked on the application form. Don’t go into what happened in the courts. Make your application clear, so readers do not have to guess as to what you may mean. Most importantly… TELL THE TRUTH!!!!”  Remember, excluding information or facts will be viewed as being untruthful.
  • Character Statements – letters from family and friends demonstrating support for your release and speaking on your character.  The Board will accept these letters of support when you send in your application or anytime after.  Find more information about writing letters on Pages 6-7
  • Reentry Support Letters. The reentry support letters are the most important; these are letters about home plans, jobs, financial support – any tangible support to facilitate your successful reentry.  It is strongly advised that these letters be sent once you get your official filing date, or later, because they can become outdated or no longer accurate.  
  • Home plans are important! It’s ok to have more than one home plan but having a home plan that is located in PA is essential.  When your sentence is commuted you must reside in Pennsylvania for one year [12 full months]—no wiggle room on this requirement; this is the law.  You are technically on Furlough for a year—this means your assignment to a Community Corrections Center [CCC] can be modified so that you will be permitted to spend extended periods of time at your home plan location. You will be able to do this once your home plan is approved. Remember a home plan is simply a promise of a place to stay; you will be able to modify the plan, if needed, once you are living in the CCC.
  • Interview with DOC Secretary John Wetzel: It has long been thought that Secretary Wetzel interviews each applicant as part of the prison review process; this is not always the case. We have learned not everyone will have a video interview with the Secretary.  However, if you get scheduled to meet with him, it is very common for him to postpone these scheduled interviews and as a result, delay your application process.   

Changes Are ‘Comin

  • Innocent Claims and Wrongfully Convicted – The Innocence Project is collaborating with the Board of Pardons to create an addendum that will be used specifically by those who have a claim of wrongful conviction will include questions specific to these issues . This additional form is being finalized; and should be available by the end of 2021. The commutation process is not designed to address or resolve actual innocence claims so unless you can prove it, keep guilt or innocence out of the application. Focus on compassion, mercy and your accomplishments/prison record. If the PA Innocence Project supports your innocence claims, they will write a letter on your behalf to include with your application. [PA Innocence Project – 1515 Market St, Suite 300 Philadelphia, PA 19102 Pittsburgh PA – 914 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15219]
  • Digital Application Coming Soon – The application process is hoped to become completely digital no later than February, 2022. When this happens, each applicant will have their own account – applicants and their support people can help file the application, make modifications and check on status of the application. There should an identified location in each prison where one will be able to use the technology.

Application Stage

  • As of January 2020 you need to use the newly revised application. People in prison can get a copy of the application by going through a counselor or at the Law Library.  People on the outside can also send an application by downloading it through the Board of Pardons website. As of 2019 there are on longer fees associated with this application. https://www.bop.pa.gov/application-process/  There aren’t any major changes for lifers, so no new information is required but you are required to submit the latest version of the application. Nothing to sweat here! You can request an application by writing to Board of Pardons 333 Market Street. 15th Floor. Harrisburg, PA 17126. It takes 3 weeks. Include your name and DOC number. Your counselor should also be able to give you an application
    • For questions about the application contact John Johnson, Pardons Case Specialist Pennsylvania Department of Corrections 1920 Technology Parkway, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050. Phone: 717-728-0386 johjohnson@pa.gov  You can also try Brandon Flood at bflood@pa.gov 717-409-3913
    • Application Status Update (717) 787-2596 (From BOP website) All phone calls are taken between 11:00 am and 4:30 pm (Eastern Time).
    • Supporters can now email letters of recommendation to the board of pardons. Contact Brandon Flood – Bflood@pa.gov He will distribute the letter to the board and put it in the applicants packet. It’s always important to send a paper copy to your person filing the application.
    • Please write to us if you want a completed sample application of Naomi Blount. This application is from 2016 so it is not exactly the same as the 2020 ones but close. We are trying to get a more updated sample.
    • Take a look at the DOC policy on commutation at your law library: 11.4.1
    • Mail your application to: Pardons Case Specialist/Parole Manager Bureau of Standards and Accreditation Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole 1920 Technology Parkway Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
    •  
    • It is very important to have someone proofread your application before submission.

Tips for writing a commutation application

Ellen Melchiondo, The Women’s Lifer Resume Project with help from etta, naomi, elaine

The new commutation application is free and there is no filing fee. The application is available on the BOP website and in the prison library. The application includes supplemental pages and you must use them. Do not write “see attachment” in spaces where information continues. There is a box at the end of each section where you indicate if you will be including supplemental information. Information that you want to provide such as resume or published work should just be sent along with the application.

If you are not in prison and assisting an applicant what I do is download the application pdf.  I save it to my desktop and a text box automatically appears. I also get rid of the text lines, and select white to make the background solid. This makes it easier to read.  

Here’s a rundown on each section for people with life sentences:

Section 1 Type of Clemency: Check “Commute Life Sentence to Life on Parole” and do your best to remember each time you previously applied. 

Section 2 Applicant Information: Just the facts. If using the DOC-Parole for representation click the box, the address is below. If using someone else, give that information. 

Section 3 Convictions for Which Clemency is Requested:  Less information is asked here: “place, role and caught.” Use a supplemental page if needed. Do not minimize role. Don’t add dialogue. Don’t make excuses. Minimize details, you’re not writing a memoir or screenplay. 

Section 4 Additional Criminal Information: Fill out Section 4 to the best of your ability because parole provides the rap sheet to the DOC commutation office. No one is expected to pay for their criminal history report.

Section 5 Optional Personal Statement: is totally optional. No more checking boxes to address reasons for applying. One page is usually enough.  In Section 5 write what life was like before the crime and tie that in to describe how your life changed and improved directly.  For people who didn’t actually kill someone but were at the scene acknowledge that decisions made or behaviors resulted in being a suspect and ultimately convicted and sentenced. Wanting family members know how sorry you are should be an apology letter sent to the apology bank or Office of Victim Advocate, not in a commutation application.

I think now, less is more in Section 5. An explanation about your life circumstances before and during serving time is good. Accomplishments in list form. Home plan if you have one.  You can list your supporters and how they will help you.  Be sincere, humble and realistic about your goals. 

Section 6: Sign and date. Keep a copy for yourself!

Tips for writing about your crime

One of the most challenging aspects for those who are pursuing commutation is to explain the role they played in the crime. Again,it is very important to have someone proofread your application before submission. When writing about the details of your crime, it is important to be both detailed and concise. Do not leave any information out, but also try to be straight to the point.  One challenge is knowing how much to share about what led up to the crime. For women in general, this cannot be omitted or separated. Since the Board of Pardons doesn’t tell us what swayed them to vote for or against an applicant, a 360 degree perspective is owed to the process. It really is up to women lifers to educate the board of the unique crimes that they find themselves convicted of. It’s a balancing act. You want to provide context for your situation without excusing or diminishing your role.

You no longer have to admit to things you didn’t do as was the thought under the old commutation process. Before, your story had to match that of the State. Now you can tell your truth but it is important to take responsibility for your role. If you are wrongfully convicted – you are still convicted in the eyes of the state. So it is basically a plea for mercy. Because this isn’t re-litigation it’s not a retrial – the most you might do is point out some evidence that they could see. This process isn’t set up for the wrongfully convicted – write Lt. Gov John Fetterman about this. 


Filing Date and Staffing Stage

After you submit your application is officially filed – this can take awhile from the time that you send it in. And each applicant gets “staffed” by their prison. This “staffing” is also called The Special Review Committee and is generally one or two deputy superintendents, a Major of Unit Management, or a Corrections Classification Program Manager or whoever is designated by the superintendent. A person can also request a supportive staff person to be included too.

Current staff may not write letters of support.  They may submit an email to the respective Unit Manager to be included in the staffing packet.

 

Merit Review Stage

For updates on merit review contact Brandon Flood Bflood@pa.gov 717-480-0793 – Let it be known that there is most often incorrect information about who is going up for Merit Review – even if one of the BOP people tell us who is going up. Several times they have listed peoples names and several times they were not on the list.  Try to call the week before the scheduled merit review to obtain the most accurate info. You can also try John Johnson.

Before your merit review you will be interviewed by Wetzel: Secretary Wetzel instituted the policy of interviewing applicants before the merit review. There is nothing in policy mandating the Secretary to conduct video interviews with people in prison.  This is his policy and this could be discontinued by the next secretary one day. The secretary makes the ultimate decision by the Department of Corrections to recommend or not recommend an applicant for commutation. Not everyone will have an interview with Wetzel.

To pass merit review you need a 3-2 majority. You can now appeal a negative outcome during the Merit Review phase.  You have 30 days to submit a Letter of Reconsideration along with a form you can find on DOC website, this letter of reconsideration is attached below. George Trudell, Naomi Blount and Farouq Wideman were denied at merit review stage, filed the reconsideration letter and are now released!

Hearing Phase

After a person passes the merit review, you will be scheduled for an in-person or virtual interview a few days before the hearings. This may be at Camphill or at Central Office in Mechanicsburg. The prison staff person who supports the applicant at the public hearing will be attending the in-person interview. Even during COVID these in person interviews happened.

A recent change in the process is that the DOC Office of Pardons Specialists will not be representing lifers at public hearings. This job falls to a staff person at the prison and was Wetzel’s idea. The idea is that Staff here at Central Office will never know the people as well as the institutional staff. Applicants are not permitted to select the designated facility staff person.  This is the decision of the superintendent.  They are still free to appoint someone else to represent you such as an attorney, friend or family member however, Mr. Johnson would not recommend since the representatives don’t have to speak as much and prepare long presentations as was the case in the past. But the representative must know the case inside and out and now how to prep the supporters in presentation.

Encourage your supporters to reach out to us if they have questions or just want some moral support. If they want to know what to expect, they can find a video on youtube of the full day of public hearings in May by searching: PA Board of Pardons, May 30, 2019. There is a shorter video highlighting Naomi and Cynthia’s hearing of the same day. Search youtube: PA Board of Pardons Hearing for Cynthia Gonzalez and Naomi Blount. Perhaps your counselors can pull it up for you as it is public and pertains directly to your situation.


2021 Board of Pardons Schedule
Merit Review  & Public Hearing Sessions:

Thursday, May 6, 2021 – Merit Review Session – Skype Session 3:00 p.m.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021 – Public Hearing – Zoom Meeting

Thursday, June 24, 2021 – Public Hearing – Zoom Meeting

Friday, June 25, 2021 – Public Hearing – Zoom Meeting


Thursday, August 5, 2021 – Merit Review Session – Skype Session 3:00 p.m.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021 – Public Hearing – Zoom Meeting

Thursday, September 23, 2021 – Public Hearing – Zoom Meeting

Friday, September 24, 2021 – Public Hearing – Zoom Meeting


Thursday, October 28, 2021 Merit Review Session – Skype Session 3:00 p.m.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021 – Public Hearing – Zoom Meeting

Wednesday, December 1, 2021 – Public Hearing – Zoom Meeting
Thursday, December 2, 2021 – Public Hearing – Zoom Meeting


Friends and Family can get conference call numbers from merit review and zoom link for public hearings at: https://www.bop.pa.gov

Letters of Reentry Support and Letters of Recommendation are Important!

A Reentry Support  Letter shows real support coming home: housing, money, job, transportation, clothes, etc… The best time to file these letters is when your commutation application is officially filed. The concern there is that the tangible support will become outdated because the process takes so long so if you can send the letters when you get your filing date they should be good. So wait to hear from the DOC and the BOP that your application has been filed.

A letter of Recommendation explains why a person believes you are no longer a threat to public safety and have been rehabilitated. They can express other things like looking forward to spending time with you, showing you how to navigate the free world, etc.. You can file these letters any time!

Reminder: Supporters can now email letters to the board of pardons. Brandon Flood – Bflood@pa.gov He will distribute the letter to the board and place in the applicant’s packet.

Keep in mind if you are writing to organizations for support letters and they don’t know you personally it is hard for them to write you a letter. Try building a relationship first.

Asking Friends and Family for Letters

 Support your friends in supporting you!

Here is a sample letter people in prison can use to mobilize family and friends to write letters:

Dear

I am working on my commutation application. I would like to know if you would be interested in writing a letter of support, a character witness letter to the board of pardons on my behalf. If you are open to this the letter should be addressed to The Board of Pardons 333 Market St, Harrisburg, PA 17126 and include the following

RE: (commutation applicant’s name) Commutation of Life Sentence, letter writer’s return address and phone number.

The letter should state the following:

1. Briefly touch on who you are, your background, employment, degrees, etc.

2. Include Commutation Applicant’s Name, DOC Number and Prison

3. How we came in contact with each other.

4. Your thoughts on my maturity and rehabilitation.

5. Your thoughts on my remorse for the offense I am convicted of.

6. Your thoughts on my chances for successful reentry into society, employment and participation in society upon my release.

7. Any willingness you would have in assisting in my reentry to society i.e. references, referrals, etc. when I am released.

When you are finished with the letter please send the original back to me. Please also keep a copy for yourself. Your assistance is greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

XXyour nameX

Download the 2021 Commutation Kit

Categories
Art & Storytelling Take Action

Monthly Donor Drive and Print Sale

Our goal is to sign up 25 new monthly donors in the month of December. Whaddya say? Can you chip in a little a month to support people in prison in PA.

Monthly sustainers are a critical part of community organizing and help us gather unrestricted funds. This money is used for: direct assistance to people in prison and returning citizens (hard to write a grant for that) stamps, printing newsletters and commutation kits, speaker stipends as well as transportation costs to visit prisons, the state capitol and faraway meetings and conferences. 

As of December 2020 we have 34 persistent givers making everything we do possible!!
They are donating at levels of $5 up to $30 a month!

Your $5 a month becomes $60 over the year.
Your $10 a month becomes $120 over the year.
Your $20 a month becomes $240 over the year.
Your $25 a month becomes $300 over the year.
Your $30 a month becomes $360 over the year.

If you sign up to be a monthly sustainer giving at least $10 a month in December, you can get a free print! If you are already a sustainer and want to up your giving by $5 a month you get a print too! After you sign up, we will email you to get your print order and shipping or Pittsburgh pick up details. You can view all the print options by looking at the print sale website below.

Categories
Take Action

It’s been over 30 days, Governor Wolf sign on!

It’s time to put some pressure on Governor Tom Wolf to sign the commutation orders that were recommended to him on September 4th. 

Please take a few moments to call ☎️ his office (717-787-2500 ) and contact him via his online form

You can write your own message or use the script below. We need to flood his office with requests so our people are returned to us ASAP!

Dear Governor Wolf,

Please Sign the Commutation orders for Avis Lee, Mildred Strickland, Henrietta Harris, Kevin Butler, Daniel Cummings, Reid Evans, Wyatt Evans, Francisco Mojica and Gregory Stover.

These nine commutation applicants went through a rigorous screening process over the last 3 years and were recommended by your appointed board. A month may not seem like a long time to you but, after serving 30 to 40 years, every additional minute is an eternity.

The risk to these people of being exposed to covid-19 is extremely high in the state correctional institutions and they would be much safer once released. It would be truly tragic to become infected while waiting for your approval.

Please sign the orders today!
✏️ Your name and any credential or PA town etc.

[Image Description: Governor Wolf is seated at a desk in the bottom right hand corner of the graphic looking down as he is writing. White letters in a hand written font state,” Dear Governor Wolf, Please sign the commutation orders that were approved last September 4th. Thanks! Love with a little heart, me”]

Categories
Take Action

Life After Life: Spare Room Solidarity Project

Friends, Comrades & Pittsburgalista’s,

Let’s Get Free is excited to announce our new initiative called Let’s Go Home! We have people in our network coming home, and hope to have more coming soon. We are cooking up many different ways to secure housing for our growing Pittsburgh community. So far, our motto is “Buy us a house or give us one or let us manage your property” 🙂 Yes our ideas are lofty!! But we are gonna bring them to fruition with your support! 

Our first effort is called the Spare Room Solidarity Project. Do you have a spare room or rooms that you could make available to an amazing person returning from incarceration?

We were really inspired when we read about  Impact Justice’s Homecoming project and also because we have reached out to the Pgh community before for solidarity housing and the response was overwhelmingly positive. 

We are looking for people who can make a commitment for at least six months, preferably a year. Members of Let’s Get Free have provided this type of housing and support in the past, and we are creating an information session and webinar explaining  what it means to sign up for a project like this. 

Please sign up here if you are interested in learning more about our new Spare Room Solidarity Project. We are planning to do our first orientation in October.

Most presently our friend Amy needs a homeplan – a promise of a place to live

A member of our LGF Prison Advisory Board- Amy Pencille is currently working her way through the extensive Commutation Process and is in need of a Home Plan. Amy has been a part of our network for 3 years! This means providing a promise of a place to live after she is released. (Which could be years away)

The catch is because everything with the courts is so nebulous we simply need you to promise her a space and then as time goes on we can find an additional homeplan if something changes in your life. A home plan is simply a promise in the form of a letter sent to the person in prison.

With solidarity and spare room in our hearts,

etta cetera and alan lewandowski

Categories
News

Overview of the Public Hearing Outcomes

The first week of September saw the first ever virtual hearings of the Board of Pardons. The hearings took place on zoom with hearing participants sent a special link. The public was able to watch a live stream of the zoom on the BOP website. A schedule was sent out weeks before listing over 200 cases to be heard, most of them pardons. The pardons cases are all people who are not in prison.

There were technical problems throughout the process resulting in the postponement of many of the pardon cases. It was a relief that the board chose to continue with the commutation cases.
 
Henrietta Harris, Avis Lee, Mildred Strickland, Gregory Stover, Francisco Mojica, Reid Evans, Wyatt Evans, Daniel Cummings and Kevin Butler were all recommended to the Governor.
 
Dennis Horton, Lee Horton and Eric Eisen were held under advisement. (They do this when the board has unanswered questions that would impact their decision.)
 
Edwin Dejesus, Harry Jeffries, Richard Marra, Michael Rinaldi, Felix Rosado, David Sloughenhoupt, Joseph Spinks and James Strapple were denied.
 
Here are some stats for the 22 that were up for commutation from our beloved data diva Elaine Selan:
 
Prisons: Phoenix  7 Chester 6 Benner 1 Dallas 2 Albion 1 Muncy 1
Cambridge Springs 2 Mahanoy 1 Somerset 1       
 
1st Degree = 7 * 2nd Degree = 11 * Robbery = 1  * Murder = 2
21 with LWOP * 1 longtimer
 
AGE – Avg. 55 Oldest = 83 Youngest=43
 
RACE –  B=10 H=3 W=9
 
YEARS SERVED – Avg= 37.1 Longest=41 Shortest=24    
 
COUNTY  Phila – 11 Allegheny – 2  Berks – 1 Bucks – 1 Delaware – 1 Lancaster – 1 Mercer – 1 Westmoreland – 1          
 
RESULTS                  
Recommended          9          1st D- 2/2nd D-6/Robbery -1
Not Recommend        8          1st D-1/2nd D-7
Under Advisement    3          2nd D-3
Case Not Heard         1          Murder
Continued      1          Murder
Not Continued           0         
Reconsideration        N/A    
Revocation     1
 
Board Members Vote Tally: 
 
Grayson (Victim Advocate) – Y=10  N=8
Gubernick (Criminal Justice ‘Expert’) Y=10  N=8
Williams (Psychiatrist) Y=10  N=8
Shapiro (Attorney General) Y=11  N=7
Fetterman (Lt. Governor) Y=12  N=6          

We uploaded some of the hearings on our youtube channel:

Felix Rosado’s Hearing – with surprising testimony from Jennifer Storm head of the Office of the Victims Advocate.

Henrietta Harris and Mike Rinaldi –  these videos clip the beginning of Henrietta’s and the end of Mike’s You can still get the feel.

Avis Lee’s Hearing – After all of the anticipation the hearing lasted about 3 minutes.

The next Merit Review is scheduled for November 5th at 3pm.
The next Public Hearings are scheduled for the second week in December 9-11th.

Debrief with us!
The hearings were a lot!

On September 17th at 6pm, join Let’s Get Free and Amistad Law Project in debriefing what happened at the public hearings, reflecting on our wins, our losses and the road ahead.   You can expect a breakdown of what happened at the hearings last week from organizers at Let’s Get Free and Amistad, space to express your feelings, observations, and questions about the hearings, and time to imagine the changes we want to see at the Board.

The event will take place on Zoom.
Register Here
Facebook Event Here

Categories
News Take Action

Success for 3 Women in PA

[Image description: Black and white headshot of Avis Lee who is smiling surrounded by flowers and the words Avis Lee 5 Yes Votes  She is coming Home]

YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. Avis Lee is coming home!!
Let us all rejoice in her homecoming. It is with great pleasure we share the news of her unanimous vote for commutation from the PA Board of Pardons.

All the women who went before the board last week had favorable reviews! Mildred Strickland at the age of 75 will be returning to Philadelphia to be with her grandchildren. Henrietta Harris whose case was held under advisement last year was commuted of her life sentence and given a hit of 12 months for an escape. 

The Amistad Law Project wrote this overview of last weeks decisions which you can read here. 9 longtimers out of 22 were recommended to the governor. There is still a long way to go but considering there were essentially no commutations for a period of 30 years in PA, we are feeling the joy!

Avis said yesterday was the best day of her life. Like a giant weight has been lifted from her shoulders. She sends gratitude for each prayer, each sign, each painting, each email, each letter, each raised voice for freedom and all the acts of love and support so many have offered her over the years.

We now await the governor to sign on to her application which could take 30 days to 6 months. The governor is not obligated to any time frame.WE ARE SPEAKING 30 DAYS INTO EXISTENCE.

Please consider chipping into her Decarceration Fund. Let’s Get Free is more than proud that Avis will be our first official employee!!

Categories
News

Public Hearings This Week

The photo above shows advocates on August 27th holding signs at the City County Bldg in Pittsburgh. The signs read “We believe in second chances. Yes on Commutation – Reunite Communities. Commute deserving Lifers. Commutation is a legal process to reduce a sentence. commutation is a second chance” Rallies held in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg a week before the hearings were meant to demonstrate physical support for people coming before the Board of Pardons.

This spreadsheet shares the schedules for this weeks first ever virtual public hearing. Over 200 cases will be heard the vast majority are people seeking pardons from marijuana related charges. 22 people seeking commutation from life and long term sentences will be heard. The spreadsheet is much easier to read if you download it onto your computer.

There will be more information on the BOP website. The link to view the hearings is https://pacast.com/live/bophearing

The Amistad Law Project will be live tweeting from the hearings. Follow along here


The applicants have an interview with the board of pardons the day before their hearings. They will be virtual as well and no public is allowed to attend. The applicants are not allowed to attend their own public hearings – even virtually.

The following info tracks people in the extended CADBI network who are coming before the board.

Tuesday September 1:
2pm Henrietta Harris – Interview

Wednesday September 2
11 – Henrietta Harris- Hearing
2pm – Avis Lee, Mildred Strickland, Richie Marra, Horton Bros. – Interview

Thursday September 3
11 – Avis Lee, Mildred Strickland- Hearing
12 – Richie Marra, Horton Brothers – Hearing
2pm – Felix Rosado, Kevin Butler – Interview

Friday September 4
10 – Felix Rosado, Kevin Butler  – Hearing
12 – Votes heard for all cases probably in Alphabetical Order like the merit review.  

According to the BOP spreadsheet, the Board’s vote on all cases [pardons and commutations—all 202] will be made on Friday, 9/4 at 12pm.  In other words, voting will not take place on the same day as the hearings, with the exception of those cases heard on Friday morning.

If the applicant receives 5 yes votes (we will rejoice) and will then wait for the governor to sign on to the application. Once signed, the person will be transported to their Community Corrections Center by the DOC.

Photos below depict the Harrisburg rally from last Thursday where 200 photos of people supporting commutation applicants were displayed on the steps of the Harrisburg Capital building. Each poster has brightly colored words stating “Yes to Commutation. Reunite Communities” with a color photograph of a different friends, family members and supporters holding signs of support for release. Read more on this coverage from the Pennsylvania Capital Star.

Categories
Art & Storytelling Events Take Action

Yes on Commutation! Week Of Events

Week of Events to Support Fair Commutation and People in Prison
Virtual Gallery Tours of the End Death by Incarceration Art Contest:
Sundays in August August 23 and 30th
at 11am, 12pm & 1pm EST – 30 minutes

Zoom Link for gallery tour at Our Link Tree

Contact to set up ASL or plan a specific group tour that fits your schedule. [letsgetfreepa@gmail.com]


Write letters of support to the 22 Commutation Applicants
Tuesday August 24 – 9am

This Tuesday morning, Letters from Home will be dedicated to sending messages of support to the people waiting for their hearings on September 4th. You can try to imagine how emotionally full this time of waiting can be. If you can’t make the 9am zoom gathering you can access the spreadsheet here. You can find a tab at the bottom of the spreadsheet that says “commutation”. Zoom Link for Letters from Home at our Link Tree


The Final August Premiere of the Life Cycles Toward Freedom Films featuring Stanley Mitchell and Saleem Holbrook
Tuesday August 25th from 7 – 8:30 EST.
Register here.

Featuring 3 new short films and special guests Stanley Mitchell and Robert Saleem Holbrook. If you have already seen the films tune in around 7:45 to see the 10 minute film about the Unger Ruling in Maryland which led to the release of 260 aging people with life sentences in 2012. Stanley was one of the people released 12 years ago.

If you don’t want to register and enter our zoom room, the events will be live streamed on our youtube channel


Yes on Commutation Rally
Thursday August 27th 9am City County Bldg – Pittsburgh

Join members of Let’s Get Free and the Dignity Act Now!Collective Pittsburgh in supporting applicants coming before the PA board of pardons on September 4th. Avis Lee, co creator of Let’s Get Free, is finally coming before the Board of Pardons after 40 years in prison. This is her 6th attempt at commutation! Because of COVID 19 these hearings will be held virtually and we will be unable to show the court support in the way we would ordinarily if allowed to enter the hearing.


Outside Film Screening and Social Distance Hang
Sunday August 30th – 7 – 8:30pm
Register Here (not necessary but helpful)
We are gonna social distance and wear masks 🙂

400 Roup Ave. In the parklet behind the Aldi in friendship.

Bring your own chair. Bring your own food 🙂 We will have fresh juice and beverages and snacks and bug spray! We will also have t-shirts for sale! We will screen the life cycles movies and more. Movies start at 8:30. Katina, a good friend of Tameka Flowers is coming all the way from Greensburg to talk about Tameka who is featured in one of the films. Rain date the following Sunday – September 6th.

Yay! Facebook Event


More action steps to take on the Life Cycles Toward Freedom Website

Categories
Art & Storytelling Events

Film Screenings & Art Show

Join us on August 18th!

[Image Description: Naomin Blount and Brandon Flood are pictured at the top and bottom of the is graphic which revelas only thier eyes and noses. The center of the graphic has event information which is listed below]

Tuesday August 18th from 7 – 8:30 EST. Featuring 3 new short films and special guests Naomi Blount and Brandon Flood. If you don’t want to register and enter our zoom room, the events will be live streamed on our youtube channel

Register for August 18th Film Screening

This Screening is endorsed by: Re/Creation, The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, ALC Courtwatch, Families for Justice as Healing, Three Rivers Community Foundation, Amistad Law Project, End Solitary Santa Cruz County [CA, USA], California Coalition for Women Prisoners, College and Community Fellowship, Human Rights Coalition Fed-Up!, Women of Color Global Women’s Strike, The Philadelphia Justice Project for Women and Girls, Reconstruction Inc, Pittsburghers for Public Transit and Islamic Communication Network.


Virtual Tours of the End Death by Incarceration Art Gallery

[Image description: This announcement for the gallery show is spelled out in mint green refrigerator magnets on a black fridge.There are bright yellow and purple flowers off to the left. A photograph of a painting of an anatomical heart is stuck to the fridge with a magnet. ]

Sundays in August
August 23rd and 30th
at 11am, 12pm & 1pm EST
30 minutes

Take 30 minutes of your day to view some of the 63 pieces of art submitted to our art show including 18 artists creating from prison and 27 artists working in solidarity.

Contact to set up ASL or plan a specific tour that fits your schedule. [letsgetfreepa@gmail.com]

Zoom Link for gallery tour at our Link Tree
https://linktr.ee/womeninprison

[Bright purple, pink red and orange make up the water color portrait of a women breaking apart bluish grey bars with the quote, ” Second Chances are first choices for Redemption” – Kristen Edmundson, Kristen is currently serving Life Without Parole at SCI-Muncy. Artwork by Morgan Overton