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Pennsylvania Prison Society advocates for a rational approach to the criminal justice system

The Eagles continue to support nonprofits that work to reduce barriers to opportunity and end racism. In support of Black History Month, the Eagles are proud to recognize the work of one of these nonprofits each day.

The Pennsylvania Prison Society has been advocating for humane prisons and a rational approach to the criminal justice system since 1787, making it the oldest organization of its kind in the country. Pennsylvania is one of only three states with a citizen oversight organization for prisons alongside New York and Illinois.

The Society receives hundreds of calls per month from inmates and/or family members expressing their concerns about everything from medical care, to confinement, to allegations of abuse either from fellow inmates or the facility's staff.

However, the calls doubled virtually overnight during the COVID-19 pandemic as families who regularly made trips to correctional facilities were no longer allowed to do so. The inquiries shifted to wondering if their loved ones were being protected from the virus or receiving the proper care if they had contracted it.

With its $15,000 grant from the Eagles via the Social Justice Fund, the Pennsylvania Prison Society has been able to continue to provide this service despite the increased demand for answers.

"I think it's been able to ensure we have the staff capacity to make sure that every letter that gets written to us from an incarcerated person and every phone call either from somebody who's in jail or from their family goes answered," said Kirstin Cornnell, director of social services for the Pennsylvania Prison Society. "We get back to every single person who gets in touch with us and get them the information that they need and at least point them in the direction of the help they need."

The Society also provides a bevy of in-person services spearheaded by its vast network of volunteers who visit inmates. The Society provides 200 visit requests per month and is the only nonprofit organization in the country with this degree of access to prisons, according to its website.

Although the pandemic has halted a lot of the Society's in-person services, it has been able to put out weekly updates about the conditions people are facing and the various policy changes regarding COVID-19. It also put together a special page on its website that tracks all of the positive COVID-19 cases and policy changes in facilities across Pennsylvania.

"Without support from the Eagles, we wouldn't be able to devote the time to making sure that we're getting accurate and timely information about what people are experiencing behind bars," Cornnell said.

Learn more about the Pennsylvania Prison Society:

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