Eastern State Penitentiary Launches New Exhibits and Events Tying Contemporary Prison Issues to America's Past

Dedication ceremony: Wednesday, June 4

Jun 02, 2014, 09:05 ET from Eastern State Penitentiary

PHILADELPHIA, June 2, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site ties the present to its past, introducing public dialogue around issues of crime, justice, and the rapidly changing face of the American criminal justice system. New for 2014 is The Big Graph, a massive infographic sculpture illustrating incarceration rates over 120 years, the changing racial makeup of the American prison population, and other striking trends in recent U.S. corrections policies.  A robust lineup of special events will support complex conversations about the prison system today - its benefits, its failures, and how we, as citizens, can affect change.

The Big Graph
This 16-foot tall, 3,500-pound plate steel sculpture illustrates three sets of statistics, depending on the viewer's position. From the south, The Big Graph illustrates the soaring growth in U.S. incarceration rates between 1970 and 2010. From the north it shows the changing racial breakdown of the American prison population in 1970 and in 2010, illustrating that the historic growth in the prison population has been comprised mostly of Black and Latino prisoners. From the east, The Big Graph charts every nation in the world, both by rate of incarceration and by policies around capital punishment. The United States sits well above all other nations in percentage of citizens in jail or prison. 

Press Event:
Members of the media are invited to a Big Graph dedication ceremony on Wednesday, June 4 at 11:00 a.m. Light refreshments, bagels and coffee, will be served. Please RSVP to Ellen Feist at ef@easternstate.org.

Former inmates of Eastern State Penitentiary will stand alongside prisoners recently released from the Pennsylvania Prison System to dedicate The Big Graph. They will share their personal experiences as a testament to the broad changes in laws and prison sentences that have taken place since Eastern State Penitentiary closed in 1970. In attendance will be the following:

  • John Toth, inmate at Eastern State Penitentiary from 1967-1969. Mr. Toth was a high school dropout who was in and out of trouble throughout his adolescence. He began his sentence at Eastern State Penitentiary when he was just 19 years old. Today, Mr. Toth appears in the historic site's TowerCam exhibit and speaks annually at its Alumni Reunion.
  • William Harrison, inmate at Eastern State Penitentiary in 1959 and 1964. Difficulties with substance abuse as early as age 12 and associations made in correctional facilities encouraged repeated offences. Mr. Harrison returns to Eastern State annually for its Alumni Reunion.
  • Jesse Krimes, artist who recently completed a 70-month prison term on felony drug charges. While incarcerated, Mr. Krimes completed a massive mural on prison bed sheets, and mailed it home to himself in pieces. He works today for the Mural Arts Program and recently spoke at Eastern State as part of The Searchlight Series.
  • Rob Rosa, Director of Operations for New Leash on Life USA. Mr. Rosa began his career in animal rescue as an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford (SCIG), where he was incarcerated on drug-related charges. Mr. Rosa spoke at Eastern State's "Pets in Prison" event in 2013, and will be working on the event again this summer.

Special Events
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site hosts special events throughout the year; highlights are outlined below. For a full schedule, visit easternstate.org/events.

The Searchlight Series
First Tuesday of every month. Free to the public.

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site partners with nationally recognized penologists and educators to present an ongoing discussion series about crime, justice, and the American prison system. Previous discussions have addressed the economic impact of mass incarceration, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the rise of yoga in prison. A full list of topics and speakers is available at easternstate.org/searchlight.

Prison Food Weekend: Nutraloaf from around the U.S.
Saturday and Sunday, June 14 and 15. Included with admission.

Visitors can sample Nutraloaf, the modern equivalent of the "bread and water" diet used as punishment in many American prisons. Available to sample will be Nutraloaf created using the official recipes from Pennsylvania (extraordinarily bland), Illinois (a vegan recipe, combining canned baked beans and spinach), California (a meat recipe with fresh ingredients) and Arizona (an intensely-flavored loaf that has been the subject of law suits). On view will be sample menus, archival photographs, prison reports, and firsthand accounts of the prison fare throughout Eastern State's 142-year operational history.

Family Weekend: Pets in Prison with New Leash on Life USA
Saturday and Sunday, August 9 and 10. Included with admission.
Saturday and Sunday, September 27 and 28. Included with admission.

New Leash on Life USA, a shelter dog training program that takes place within the Pennsylvania prison system, will give a presentation about the mission of its organization and the effect its training program has on participating inmates. Several dogs, trained by local inmates, will demonstrate for visitors the commands and tricks they have learned through the New Leash on Life USA program. Visitors to the historic site can meet the dogs and can adopt dogs that haven't yet found homes. Families can also learn more about Eastern State Penitentiary's most famous four-legged resident, Pep the Dog, and participate in a variety of animal-themed activities.

Photo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20140530/92724

SOURCE Eastern State Penitentiary