Philly summit will highlight impact of mass incarceration on communities

Assata Thomas, director of FIGHT’s Institute for Community Justice, speaks during the 2018 Justice, Reentry and Healthcare Summit (Philadelphia Tribune photo)

By Ayana Jones

PHILADELPHIA — An upcoming summit seeks to explore the impact of mass incarceration and health disparities on individuals and communities.

The Justice, Reentry and Healthcare Summit will be presented by Philadelphia FIGHT in a virtual setting from Oct. 5 to Oct. 9.

The free event is produced by the Institute for Community Justice, a prison services and reentry program providing supportive services, health linkages, workforce development, peer support and advocacy for individuals, families and communities impacted by mass incarceration.

Assata Thomas, director of FIGHT’s Institute for Community Justice said the summit serves as a call to action in addressing the criminal justice system crisis.

“The mass imprisonment of countless women and men is doing nothing more than accomplishing the antithesis of its mission statement,” she said.

“Instead of correction, the prison system consistently is creating broken people. It is not enough to keep hearing about these injustices. It is not enough to just keep talking about it. It is a call to action, first to enlighten folks in terms of what’s going on in terms of policies and how we can actually use our voice in changing some of these systems and policies.”

The focus on incarceration comes as 2.3 million people are confined nationwide, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.

FIGHT’s summit will feature keynote addresses by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and Tyree Wallace. Wallace has been incarcerated since 1997 on a life sentence for a wrongful murder conviction. He is currently represented by the PA Innocence Project and Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg & Lin LLP.

Wallace is the co-founder and president of the MANN Up! Association, which is a peer support and empowerment group that works inside and outside the walls of SCI (state corrections institution) Phoenix, a maximum security prison in Collegeville, Pa. The organization seeks to prepare prisoners for release and provide support to serving long-term sentences through group therapy sessions, skits, musical and spoken word performances.

The virtual event offers workshops on topics such as community policing; the design of education and the school-to-prison pipeline; amending the 13th Amendment; health care rights; and the effects of trauma and injustice on mental health.

“I want people to come with the mindset of what must I do to help and that this is an opportunity to not only hear about things that are happening here locally in Philly but nationwide and how valuable one’s voice is,” Thomas said.

“We may use our voices differently, nonetheless all of our voices are necessary to begin to eradicate the current system and start anew,” Thomas said.

To register, go to fight.org.

Ayana Jones is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared