The Searchlight Series

The Searchlight Series

Eastern State Penitentiary Presents
The Searchlight Series:
Conversations About Crime, Justice, and the American Prison System


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. The Searchlight Series discussions take place the first Tuesday of every month, free and open to the public. No reservations required. The 2016 schedule is as follows:

Tuesday, January 5
Tuesday, February 2
Tuesday, March 1
Tuesday, April 5
Tuesday, May 3
Tuesday, June 7
Tuesday, July 5
Tuesday, August 2
Tuesday, September 6
Tuesday, October 4
Tuesday, November 1
Tuesday, December 6

Discussion topics and speakers listed below. (Some topics TBD.) Click here for a list of last year's discussions.

The Searchlight Series is supported in part by a grant from The Pennsylvania Abolition Society Endowment Fund of The Philadelphia Foundation.


Jamira Burley: Criminal Justice Reform: Speaking from Personal Experience

Tuesday, January 5, 6:00 - 7:00 pm
Free. No reservations required.

Jamira BurleyAfter the repeat incarceration of both of her parents and all ten of her older brothers, Jamira Burley became a champion for community engagement and criminal justice reform. Ms. Burley is a 2015 Leading With Conviction advocate at JustLeadershipUSA, which empowers people most affected by incarceration to drive policy reform.

Jamira Burley works for Amnesty International USA on issues of gun violence and criminal justice. She previously served as the Executive Director for the City of Philadelphia Youth Commission, where she was honored by the White House as a Champion of Change.

Barbie Fischer: Restorative Justice

Tuesday, February 2, 6:00 - 7:00 pm
Free. No reservations required.

Barbie FischerDeveloped from indigenous practices around the world, restorative justice is a way of dealing with hurt and harm. Restorative justice focuses on the healing of victims and offenders through dialogue and truth telling in ways that offer dignity and respect to all stakeholders affected.

Barbie Fischer is the Executive Director of Restorative Encounters, a restorative justice organization. She works with prisoners and their families, veterans, and former child soldiers.

Joe Slobodzian: Covering Philadelphia’s Criminal Courts

Joe SlobodzianTuesday, March 1, 6:00 - 7:00 pm
Free. No reservations required.

Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Joe Slobodzian will speak about current issues in the city’s criminal court system and their intersection with the issues of 21st century urban America.

A native of Philadelphia, Slobodzian has worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for more than four decades. Since 1982, he has worked at The Philadelphia Inquirer, where he has covered criminal justice and legal issues, including federal courts and Philadelphia criminal courts.

Harold JordanHarold Jordan: Stopping the Criminalization of Youth – Notes from the Field

Tuesday, April 5, 6:00 - 7:00 pm
Free. No reservations required.

Over the past few decades, a significant rise in the number of out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, and referrals of students to the police – marked by an extraordinary level of racial bias – has stoked conversation about a “school-to-prison pipeline.” Building on years of research and advocacy, Harold Jordan will discuss some of the major obstacles to fixing our schools’ dependence on these measures, and some of the practices implemented in forward-looking school communities.

Mr. Jordan is the Senior Policy Advocate at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and the author of Beyond Zero Tolerance: Discipline and Policing in Pennsylvania Schools. He chairs the board of The Philadelphia Public School Notebook, a nonprofit news service reporting on public education.

Jeremy TravisJeremy Travis: Mass Incarceration: How Did We Get Here? What Are the Prospects for Change?

Tuesday, May 3, 6:00 - 7:00 pm
Free. No reservations required.

Jeremy Travis recently chaired the National Research Council’s committee on the causes and consequences of high rates of incarceration. He will discuss the dimensions of mass incarceration, and what strategies might succeed in forging a new path for American criminal justice.

Jeremy Travis is president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York. He has more than three decades of experience as a public servant, including as director of the National Institute of Justice and Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters for the News York City Police Department.

Mike Huggins: Yoga in Prison

Mike HugginsTuesday, June 7, 6:00 - 7:00 pm
Free. No reservations required.

Mike Huggins, a registered yoga instructor, will speak about yoga's ability to reduce stress and anxiety, heal trauma, and improve overall quality of life. He will then lead a brief yoga class for attendees on the prison's baseball diamond (weather permitting). Guests are invited to bring a yoga mat and to dress comfortably.

Mike Huggins is the Executive Director of Transformation Yoga Project, which teaches yoga and mindfulness to at-risk and underserved populations, including individuals in several Philadelphia correctional facilities.

July 2016: Speaker TBD

Tuesday, July 5, 6:00 - 7:00 pm
Free. No reservations required.

Discussion topic TBD.

August 2016: Speaker TBD

Tuesday, August 2, 6:00 - 7:00 pm
Free. No reservations required.

Discussion topic TBD.

Caleb Smith

Tuesday, September 6, 6:00 - 7:00 pm
Free. No reservations required.

Discussion topic TBD.

Dee Hibbert-Jones & Nomi Talisman: Last Day of Freedom

Tuesday, October 4, 6:00 - 7:00 pm
Free. No reservations required.

Last Day of FreedomAn award-winning animated short film telling the story of Bill Babbit’s decision to stand by his brother in the face of war, crime and, eventually, capital punishment. (32 minutes followed by Q&A with the filmmakers.)

Dee Hibbert-Jones & Nomi Talisman are artists/filmmakers who bring to life larger issues of criminal justice and civic responsibility. Their work blends animation and documentary forms to move beyond dehumanizing statistics, striving for empathy and critical reflection.

November 2016: Speaker TBD

Tuesday, November 1, 6:00 - 7:00 pm
Free. No reservations required.

Discussion topic TBD.

December 2016: Speaker TBD

Tuesday, December 6, 6:00 - 7:00 pm
Free. No reservations required.

Discussion topic TBD.