Governor Wolf, shut it down. #ShutDownBerks #EndFamilyDetention

For Immediate Release
August 16, 2019
Press Contact: Colleen Kennedy
colleen@keystoneprogress.org

Keystone Progress stands unequivocally with the Shut Down Berks Coalition

Gov. Wolf MUST issue ERO releasing immigrant families to restore trust in his administration 

Harrisburg, PA - In the past week, Pennsylvanians have seen an active public relations campaign from Governor Wolf’s office, aiming to brand him as a savior of immigrants against the agenda of President Trump. Meanwhile, Governor Wolf has the power to make a real difference in the lives of countless immigrant families currently imprisoned at the Berks County Residential Center, by issuing an emergency removal order (ERO), yet he refuses to do so.

In July, psychologists who visited the detention center cited the real damage that was being caused to these children directly from their arbitrary imprisonment. WHYY reported that one of the psychologists, Anna Fisher, said “There is “no area of development that is spared by this kind of trauma. Oftentimes, this trauma is lasting, and it impacts all aspects of one’s functioning and development. Social, cognitive development, language development, attention development.” These acts of psychological violence on children are unwarranted and beneath the values of Pennsylvanians.

Keystone Progress Executive Director Dan Doubet issued the following statement in support of the coalition: 

“The Shutdown Berks Coalition has led the movement to end family detention in Pennsylvania, and we stand with them and all who stand against detention of children and families.  Governor Wolf seems more interested in performative, partisan declarations than in stopping the atrocities of incarceration happening right now, on his watch, in PA. He has the power to shut down the Berks detention center, and no tweet or press release condemning the president will make up for that. Governor Wolf, it’s time to lead: shut it down.

Linked here is the full statement from the Shut Down Berks Coalition, a group of courageous activists who have our full support as they continue to advocate for the human rights of immigrant families.

CALL GOVERNOR WOLF.

He needs to hear from you.
Here’s his phone number: 717-787-2500

ALERT: Dignity Act of Pennsylvania aims to protect the civil rights of incarcerated women

Human rights to all, including incarcerated women!

The Dignity Act for Incarcerated Women and Parents aims to end the direct harm our prisons have on entire families. This series of bills are currently in the House Judiciary Committee, and you can make your voice heard by signing this petition in support of the legislative package, in order to obtain more legislative co-sponsors.

Current Legislative Package:

HB 1011 (prime sponsor, Rep Morgan Cephas): would require the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) to create a new committee focused specifically on issues affecting females

HB 1012 (prime sponsor, Rep Morgan Cephas): requires the DOC to submit an annual report on the number of health care screenings, emergency, maternal, and specialty care services they provide to the House Health Committee, House Human Services Committee, and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee

HB 1008 (prime sponsor, Rep Isabella Fitzgerald): require state prisons to provide at least two varieties of sanitary pads and two varieties of tampons to all female inmates at no cost, regardless of their financial means.

HB 999 (prime sponsor, Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler): calls for the creation of ombudsmen positions within the DOC. These neutral third-party assistants attempt to help with matters for which there is no effective administrative remedy.

HB 1002 (prime sponsor, Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler): creates a program that allows formerly incarcerated people to mentor currently incarcerated people

HB 1007 (prime sponsor, Rep. Joanna McClinton): would ensure that incarcerated parents are able to speak to their children regularly, regardless of their financial means, by providing them with one free phone call or email per month to each of their children

HB 1014 (prime sponsor, Rep. Summer Lee): would create an environment in our correctional institutions that properly assists and rehabilitates incarcerated individuals who have experienced trauma

HB 1593 (prime sponsor, Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell): would look to limit, to the greatest extent possible, inspections by male correctional officers when a female is in a state of undress. In addition, the bill would also require invasive body cavity searches of pregnant women to be done by a certified healthcare professional. There would be exceptions for cavity searches if a correctional officer has reason to believe the woman was concealing contraband, with justification being required in the form of a written report within 72 hours following the search.

HB 1591 (prime sponsor, Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell): would require the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PADOC) to place incarcerated mothers of a minor dependent within 250 miles of their permanent address of record. It would also authorize visitation by minor dependents for at least two days per week.

HB 1592 (prime sponsor, Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell): would establish an overnight visitation program at all PADOC facilities. The program would allow children 10 years or younger to stay overnight with their mother, so long as the mother meets certain qualifications. Furthermore, it would establish a separate, secure area where both mother and child could stay for the duration of the visit.

HB 1594 (prime sponsor, Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell): would require the PADOC and the Department of Human Services to jointly develop a training program for staff who have contact with incarcerated pregnant women. This program would include a variety of information about the general care of pregnant women and would also require that educational programming be put in place for pregnant women.

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: 'Nobody is going to go to heaven.’ Pa. budget deal divides Democrats

The nearly $34 billion budget bill, which Mr. Wolf has signed, contained few of their legislative priorities. Though it boosts money for public education — long one of Mr. Wolf’s priorities — it siphons money from environmental protection efforts, lacks an increase to the state’s $7.25-per-hour minimum wage, and strips funding for a cash assistance program that helps Pennsylvania’s poorest residents.

Democratic lawmakers, including some newly elected in a progressive wave last year, balked at some of the missing items. Though they stopped short of publicly directly criticizing Mr. Wolf and their leadership, they expressed frustration that they did not have greater input in the process, which produced a plan that they believe abandons their ideals.

Colleen Kennedy
KP Statement on the 2019-2020 State Budget

For Immediate Release
June 28, 2019
Contact: Colleen Kennedy, colleen@keystoneprogress.org

Statement from Keystone Progress Executive Director Dan Doubet

"This has been a disappointing budget season for Governor Wolf's stated priorities, but it will be absolutely devastating to the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians. We need leaders to do better, and we will be vocally pushing for improvements in state policy in the weeks and months to come. Our solidarity is with all of the domestic violence survivors, people living with diseases and disabilities, people facing homelessness, veterans, human trafficking survivors, and low wage earners, whose basic needs were left on the negotiating floor. While legislators go home for a timely summer recess, thousands of their constituents will be scrambling to survive. Going forward, leaders who ignore the needs of Pennsylvanians can expect the people to bring accountability to their door and at the ballot box."

COMMON DREAMS: Charter Schools Are a Major Dividing Line for the 2020 Democratic Candidates—Education Fights in Pennsylvania Point the Way

Although charter schools are promoted to Pennsylvania families as a free option to look outside their neighborhood public schools, the costs of charters are borne by local school districts—and all the taxpayers who support them. Charter schools now costPennsylvania taxpayers over $1.8 billion annually and account for over 25 percent of the state’s basic education funding.

Pennsylvania’s surging charter school costs are direct causes of rapidly rising property taxes across the state. When public school students transfer to charters, and per-pupil costs “follow the child,” Doubet explains, the bill for that cost comes due at the end of each budget year when local public schools have to make “tuition payments” to compensate charters for students who transferred. These mostly unplanned, unforeseen costs are often enough to tip district budgets into the red. And the only way to pay off the deficits and right the fiscal ship is to raise local property taxes.

“Everywhere you go you hear complaints about the huge burden that local property taxes have become,” Doubet says. “It’s tough for middle- and working-class families to come up with the money when their wages have stagnated for decades. And retirees on fixed incomes are especially hard hit.”

Colleen Kennedy