Inmates serving life terms at Pennsylvania’s Graterford Prison held a crime prevention summit yesterday that attracted more than 100 community leaders and police officers. on. “Initially we thought it was a crazy idea,” said Tyrone A. Werts, president of Lifers Inc., which initiated the conference, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. But the idea became a reality, with community leaders and police brass filling the pews of Graterford’s chapel, alongside about 100 prison inmates, for an all-day conference aimed at finding ways to curb drugs, violence and crime.
Organized with Men United for a Better Philadelphia, a group that works to reduce the city’s homicide rate, the conference attempted to build a bridge between community leaders, who are working to prevent crime, and prison inmates, who have seen that crime close up. Morris Thigpen, director of the National Institute of Corrections, a Justice Department agency that provides training to prisons, said he was not aware of any other prison that had held such a conference. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson told the meeting that, “Traditional policing is not working. Just locking people up is not the answer.”
Pennsylvania has nearly 100,000 men and women incarcerated in state and county prisons. Of those who are released each year, about 40 percent return. Scott Lattany, a Graterford inmate who moderated the forum, said the lifer population could help short-time convicts turn their lives around while in prison, so that they could go back into society to fight crime when they are released.