Eastern State Penitentiary Launches The Searchlight Series

Historic Site

Feb 21, 2012
Four-part discussion on current correctional issues features partnerships with local organizations and special guest speakers

Eastern State Penitentiary partners with local organizations to present a four-part discussion series that focuses on crime and contemporary correctional issues and features various guest speakers. Each discussion in The Searchlight Series will be open to the public for a fee of $5.00 and free for members of the historic site. The schedule is as follows:

Monday, May 7, 6:00 p.m. – Prison Through the Eyes of the Falsely Convicted
An exonerated inmate describes his years spent in prison for a crime he did not commit. Pennsylvania Innocence Project’s Marissa Boyers Bluestine joins the discussion to describe her organization’s work to prevent wrongful convictions, including working with law enforcement to develop better eyewitness identification procedures and training lawyers how to address issues related to eyewitness evidence in court.

Marissa Boyers Bluestine is Legal Director of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project. She was a litigation associate at the firm of Duane Morris and an Assistant Defender with the Defender’s Association of Philadelphia for more than ten years.

Monday, May 21, 6:00 p.m. – From Robben Island to Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei:
 Prisons as Tools for Political Repression
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site partners with Lantern Theater Company to present a discussion of prisons as tools in political oppression, and how these themes have been addressed covertly by artists living under repressive regimes. This event is organized in conjunction with LTC’s production of The Island by South African playwright Athol Fugard, a play based loosely on Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment on Robben Island under the apartheid government of South Africa. Aaron Levy of the Slought Foundation joins the discussion to describe the Chinese government’s detention of political artist Ai Weiwei in 2011.

KC MacMillan is the Associate Artistic Director at Lantern Theater Company. In addition to her responsibilities as a director of shows, KC conducts research in support of each of the Lantern's four productions and leads its audience enrichment programs.

Peter DeLaurier is the director of the Lantern's production of Athol Fugard's The Island. This is his second production of Fugard for the Lantern. Peter is also a longtime company member at People's Light & Theatre in Malvern.

Aaron Levy is the Executive Director and Chief Curator of Slought, a small Philadelphia-based institution whose programs focus as much on histories of cultural experimentation and political advocacy as on the creation of new social practices. He worked with Ai Weiwei on The Fairytale Project before the artist’s detention.

Monday, June 4, 6:00 p.m. – Lynne Abraham and the Case for a Robust, But Fair, Criminal Justice System
Lynne Abraham, Esq., served as Philadelphia’s District Attorney for eighteen years. During that time she gained a national reputation as a strong proponent for law enforcement, the courts, and the prison system in their roles keeping communities safe from crime and violence. Says Ms. Abraham, “A robust, yet fair, criminal justice system, one that citizens feel is there to protect them and their communities, helps to counter the negative effects of helplessness and vulnerability, and maintains the proper balance in a civilized society.”

Lynne Abraham, Esq., was Philadelphia’s District Attorney from 1999 to 2010. She is now a practicing attorney and partner at the firm of Archer & Greiner in Philadelphia.

Monday, June 18, 6:00 p.m. – The Social Cost of Imprisonment
Marc Mauer discusses the impact of changing drug and "tough on crime" policies on poor and minority communities in the U.S. During this discussion, Mr. Mauer will analyze current prospects for reform and their potential for diminishing the cost and scale of incarceration. He will also examine the social impact of the American criminal justice system as well as possible, and hopefully more effective, public safety strategies.

Marc Mauer is the Executive Director of The Sentencing Project and author of Race to Incarcerate. He is frequently invited to testify before Congress and the U.S. Sentencing Commission, and addresses a broad range of national and international audiences.

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site
Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world's first true "penitentiary," a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of convicts. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America's most notorious criminals, including bank robber "Slick Willie" Sutton and Al Capone.

Tours today include the cellblocks, solitary punishment cells, Al Capone's Cell, and Death Row. A critically acclaimed series of artist installations is free with admission. Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is located at 22nd Street and Fairmount Avenue, just five blocks from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $8 for students and children ages 7-12 (not recommended for children under the age of seven). The penitentiary is open every day, year round. April through November, admission includes “The Voices of Eastern State" Audio Tour, narrated by actor Steve Buscemi. For more information and schedules, please call (215) 236-3300 or visit www.EasternState.org.