On Monday, June 7th, the PA Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival (PAPPC:NCMR) joined states around the country and Washington DC to put our US Representatives on notice. Drawing on the transformational history of the First Reconstruction following the Civil War and the Second Reconstruction of the civil rights struggles of the 20th century, today we need a Third Reconstruction to revive our moral and political commitments to democracy and the founding principles of the country.
With this resolution, we (1) acknowledge the deep harms we have suffered from systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation and the denial of health care, militarism and the false narrative of white supremacist nationalist extremism and (2) commit to heal and transform the nation by addressing these interlocking injustices, beginning with those most impacted, with moral and just laws and policies.
Several Put People First! PA members wrote Letters to the Editor leading up to these actions. Read these letters here:
Tammy Rojas, Lancaster
*Submitted and accepted to the Lancaster Newspaper
I’m a co-root coordinator with Put People First! PA and an organizer with the National Union of the Homeless. I was outraged to hear that 78 acres of beautiful farmland are slated to be redeveloped as the site of the new and much larger Lancaster County prison.
It’s sad to me, because we are destroying a beautiful piece of land to continue what I view as causing harm and violence to our people. I do not believe that the majority of those in the county prison need to be there to begin with. A bigger prison, in my view, allows more harm to be done to more people.
I was an inmate at Lancaster County Prison for two weeks because I didn’t have $150. While there, I was denied my mental health medications. According to the Pennsylvania Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, in Pennsylvania over $500 million of our tax dollars go to lock up over 13,000 people who could be immediately released with no risk to public safety.
This is why I’ll be taking action with that campaign at 1:30 p.m. June 7 in Harrisburg on the front steps of the state Capitol building. We will demand a moral state budget and deliver the proposed “Third Reconstruction” congressional resolution (poorpeoplescampaign.org). Join us!
Matt Rosing, Lancaster
*Submitted to the Lancaster Newspaper
Re: Lancaster County Prison Board approves of plan to buy Lancaster Township farm for new prison site (May 20, 2021). My name is Matthew Rosing, I’m part of Put People First! PA Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee and a leader in the National Union of the Homeless. I have many concerns about the building of the new prison here in Lancaster County. As an ex-inmate of LCP I’ve seen first hand the horrible conditions of the prison. I also am very aware of the minor things 90% of the inmate population are actually in there for, such as technical probation violations, or simple possession.
It’s time to release minor offenders and stop jailing those who can’t afford bail, which criminalizes poverty. Realize the harm that these prisons cause people and use the money for healthcare, housing and treatment. It is cheaper and more productive to give these preventative measures to these human beings, than it is to put them in a box. Demolish the old prison, don’t build a new one.
The PA Poor People’s Campaign is demanding Harrisburg “redirect appropriations from the Department of Corrections and Board of Probation and Parole to housing, healthcare, food, and other essential needs.” Lancaster County must do the same. That’s why I am taking action on June 7 at 1:30pm outside the state capitol in Harrisburg with the PA Poor People’s Campaign to demand that state lawmakers center over 5 million poor and low-wage Pennsylvanians in the state budget.
Lizzie Anderson and Eleanor Anderson, Pittsburgh
*Submitted to the Post-Gazette
In a June 3rd Editorial, the Post-Gazette claimed state officials should require Pennsylvanians on unemployment to prove they are actively looking for work. We are tired of these old shaming tactics targeting the poor. Pennsylvanians are doing our part. Our state and federal elected officials need to do better.
We need just and moral budgets at all levels of government and support from PA congressional representatives for the national Poor People’s Campaign resolution, Third Reconstruction: Fully addressing poverty and low wages from the bottom up.
Even before COVID, over 5 million poor and dispossessed working class people in Pennsylvania were living at 200% of the federal poverty line or below. For an average Pennsylvania family of three, that means living on $43,920 or less each year. Enrollment in Medicaid has increased by almost 300,000 people, or almost 10% since February 2020. And, the richest Pennsylvanians and companies in our state pay little to no taxes, while the lowest 20% of income earners pay more than double their share of state and local taxes compared with the top 1%. This hurts all of us.
We are members of Put People First! PA, a member organization of PA Poor People’s Campaign, a National Call for Moral Revival. This is why we are taking action on Monday June 7th from 12:00 pm – 12:45 pm at Rep. Mike Doyle’s office, 2637 E Carson St, Pittsburgh, PA 15203. Pennsylvanians deserve better!