Prison Justice Alliance Takes Shape (09/03)

The Alliance for Prison Justice (APJ), a human rights project initiated by TF, is making significant strides in its effort to advocate for prisoners and their families. Launched with a February 2002 conference attended by over 200 people, the group now has a Coordinating Committee, growing membership, part-time staff, and several projects.      

Last year, APJ worked with Vermont’s Prisoners Health Coalition to collect information about health issues. Forums were held around the state, and prisoner views were solicited. A report will be available soon. This June, a part-time office assistant, Jennifer Berger, was hired, but additional funding is needed to maintain the position in 2004.

Members conduct monthly prison visits. One current concern is policies that further restrict visits with prisoners. To increase internal communication and public awareness, the group will publish a newsletter. Articles will cover prison rules and legislative issues. Writing by prisoners will be sought.

APJ is also constructing a Website at Along with project updates, information on legislation and policies affecting prisoners and their families will be posted and discussed. The site currently features an important report, Health and Disability in the Vermont Corrections System, by Phil Smith and Nanaymie Godfrey. Health services in Vermont correctional settings are "alarmingly slow," the report concludes. "Life-threatening and disfiguring injuries and other health concerns are dealt with only after long wait periods. When health care is provided, it is at times out of touch with the reality of prison life, and at other times woefully dangerous, more concerned with bureaucratic issues than the needs of human patients."

For Website information, e-mail, or write APJ, POB 526, Montpelier, VT 05602-0526. Tax deductible donations can be sent to APJ c/o Toward Freedom, POB 468, Burlington, VT 05402. Write APJ in the memo line. For general info, e-mail, or phone the TF office.