from the inside

(1) Women Lifers at Muncy (Pennsylvania's prison for women) have held their first lifer's meeting, and "are determined to make their voices heard."

(2) "Exonerated"-a beautiful poem by Mary Berger, inmate at SCI Muncy

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Muncy Lifers:
Making Our Voices Heard
By Heather Lavelle, OK-8736, SCI Muncy

The women at Muncy just had their first Lifers
meeting, and we are determined to have our
voices heard.

Women displayed real emotion at the meeting.
This emotion can only come from the pain of living, not only with guilt and regret of past wrongs, but also from a life sentence with no possibility of parole.

When facing a life sentence, you have a choice to make. Will you continue to be the woman you were, or will you look deep inside, confront what you see, and change?

Not only do you have to deal with the turmoil inside created by the crime that brought you to prison, but you also have to figure out how to live a life on the inside of which you can be proud. Do you rollover and die, or do you fight what continues to look like a losing battle?

Thank God enough of us have chosen to fight so we will be able to make a difference.

We need to learn how to make our voices strong.
We need to figure out who will listen. We will find a way to show the world why there should be parole eligibility for lifers in Pennsylvania.

Who else truly understands compassion because of
the suffering they have caused and have had to face?
Who else truly understands forgiveness but those
who need to be forgiven for the unforgivable?

Who else understands the potential that connects
all human beings?
We have the potential to be some of the strongest, most loving and compassionate members of society—if only we are given the chance.

Listen for a loud roar from the women at Muncy.
The time has come to make our voices heard.


By Mary Berger, OG-3353, SCI Muncy

It has been a long slow journey, a study of fate —
living off my feelings of self-loathing, bitterness and

I have kept them so tightly hidden for years;
Tapped into them recently, opening the inevitable
floodgate of tears.

If only I had known the secret earlier for ridding
myself of days and nights of pain,
I wouldn’t have wasted so many precious moments of life reliving the past without purpose; it left me with
nothing to gain.

For today, I now look back and reap the lessons after
years of wear and tear and strain.
The answer was there all along; it was tucked away
deep inside my heart;
The desire to fully live life again, finding the strength
to make a new start.

First, I had to reach out to others, become active in
the human race,
Putting “what’s done is done” behind me, leaving
torment gone without a trace.

Stop punishing myself for part in a terrible night of
horror that has left a bottomless hole.

I have finally realized to move on, I have to forgive
myself; all along I was the only one with the power to
Exonerate My Soul.

Forgotten Women:

Sharon Wiggins -
imprisoned at age 15, now age 60.
Geraldine Lucas -
79 year old blind woman.

by Lee Horton
SCI Mahanoy

I n recent years, throughout the Middle East and Africa, women have been sentenced to death by stoning — often for adultery. In every instance, a spontaneous eruption of empathy and support for these condemned women overflows from the hearts of American people and human rights advocates decrying treatment as excessive and inhumane.

I agree. Stoning a woman for any reason is reprehensible.However, in evaluating the American public’s outrage at the treatment of these women overseas, I am led to ask:Where is the outpouring of empathy and support for women incarcerated in the United States who are also confronted with harsh treatment? Frequently, these women suffer under the heavy yoke of wrongful convictions, problematic prison conditions, and inhumane prison sentences.Have they been forgotten?

Over the past 30 years, the fastest growing U.S. prison population has been women. In most states, the criminal justice system has been ill-equipped to handle such an increase in female prisoners. As a result, women imprisoned in the U.S. are subjected to overcrowding, violence,and sexual abuse from other prisoners and prison staff.

A point in fact: All over the U.S., incarcerated pregnant women are shackled during childbirth. Although this is no longer the case in Pennsylvania — thanks to Gov. Ed Rendell for signing Act 45, which ended the practice in this state — incarcerated women in Pennsylvania face a far worse scenario. Some women sentenced as juveniles have been in prison for almost half a century with no relief insight.

Sharon Wiggins was convicted of murder in the 1960s at the age of 15. She remained on death row for three years before she was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Now 60, Sharon has the distinction of being the longest continually confined female juvenile lifer in the world. Is this humane? Most countries would say no.

What about
Geraldine Lucas who has been in prison for 40 years? She is 79 years old and blind. Nothing more needs to be said about her situation. The inhumanity of continuing to incarcerate a blind septuagenarian after 40years speaks for itself.

Sharon and Geraldine are not the exception in Pennsylvania,but rather the rule. At SCI Muncy, many other women are serving life without parole, just like them. They are sick, infirm, and surely no threat to society. Most have been long reformed. So why are they still in prison? What is being gained?

The American public is right in their outrage against the sentences of death by stoning women overseas endure. However, countries that issue punishment that offends American sensibilities would find sentencing a 15-year-old girl to life without parole, and then keeping her in prison for half a century, to be equally inhumane. For, like those women abroad, after living so long in a cell no bigger than a bathroom, every day is equivalent to being stoned one day at a time.

Before the citizens of the U.S. can be outraged at other countries for inhumanity towards their citizens, we must first be sure our own citizens are being treated humanely

.Nobody is talking about releasing people who are convicted of crimes without punishing them. But after half a century in prison, being stoned may be preferable to continued imprisonment. America’s outrage should be at the treatment of its own incarcerated women and their plight.And Pennsylvania can start by considering parole eligibility for the forgotten women of Muncy. It’s high time to pass legislation to parole Pennsylvania lifers!