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 2015 schedule is as follows:

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

The Searchlight Series is supported in part by a grant from The George W. Rentschler Foundation. Discussion topics and speakers listed below. (Some topics TBA.) Click here for a list of last year's discussions.


Betty Jean Thompson: The Impact of Incarceration Upon Families and Communities

Betty Jean ThompsonTuesday, January 6, 6:00 - 7:00 pm
Free. No reservations required.

The mother of a formerly incarcerated man, Ms. Thompson will use excerpts from her book A Small Candlelight to explore the impact of mass incarceration on communities.

She will discuss “realistic healing approaches” to help incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, their families, and their communities to “minimize the oppressive nature of Incarceration.”

Leslie Guy: Finding Our Way

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

Leslie Guy at Eastern State Penitentiary Searchlight SeriesMuseums are often seen as places that exhibit and preserve historical art and artifacts. Yet some museums are establishing their role as a forum for the critical dialogues of today.

Leslie Guy, Director of Curatorial Services at the African American Museum in Philadelphia, will discuss the museum’s accomplishments and continuing challenges in telling stories that address contemporary human rights issues.

Sue Osthoff: Working for Justice for Victims of Battering Charged with Crimes

Tuesday, March 3, 6:00 - 7:00 pm
Free. No reservations required.Sue Osthoff at Eastern State Penitentiary's The Searchlight Series

Victims of domestic violence and abuse make up a large percentage of the ever-increasing number of people who are charged with crimes and/or incarcerated. Join Sue Osthoff, Director of the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women, as she discusses some of the ways that victims of battering end up in the criminal legal system as defendants, the detrimental impact that criminal charges can have on a survivor’s safety and options, and strategies to increase justice for charged, incarcerated, and reentering victims of battering.

Exonerated from Death Row

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

Witness to Innocence at Eastern State Penitentiary's The Searchlight SeriesBoth Kirk Bloodsworth and Harold Wilson were given the death penalty for crimes they did not commit. They spent a combined 18 years on death row. Kirk was the first person released from death row in the United States because of DNA evidence; he now serves as a Board Member for the Pennsylvania Innocence Project. Harold is the sixth and most recent death row exoneree from Pennsylvania. They now tell their stories of wrongful conviction as members of Witness to Innocence, the nation's only organization of exonerated death row survivors.

Alice Goffman: On the Run

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

Alice GoffmanDrawing on six years of fieldwork in Philadelphia, Alice Goffman's book On the Run describes young men growing up as suspects and fugitives in the segregated Black neighborhoods torn apart by the war on crime and unprecedented levels of targeted imprisonment.

Alice Goffman is an urban ethnographer who grew up in Philadelphia, attended graduate school at Princeton, and now teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Reception and book signing to follow.

Jennifer Storm: Protecting Victims' Rights

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

Jennifer StormThe rights of crime victims are sometimes overlooked in our criminal justice system. What is their role? How has that role been changing? What challenges face these families who, after all, have been pulled into the legal system by the violent or unlawful actions of others?

Jennifer Storm is Commonwealth Victim Advocate. She represents the rights and interests of crime victims generally throughout the Commonwealth and specifically regarding post-sentencing rights before the Board of Probation and Parole, Department of Corrections. Her office oversees notification to crime victims of the potential for inmate release and provides input to the board regarding all paroling decisions.