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ESP to Host Online Conversation About COVID-19 and Criminal Justice System

Eastern State moves The Searchlight Series online April 7.

April 1, 2020

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site will host a special online installment of its program The Searchlight Series this month. On Tuesday, April 7 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., two nationally renowned experts will discuss the impact of COVID-19 on incarcerated populations, correctional staff, and the criminal justice system. The conversation, facilitated by Senior Vice President, Director of Interpretation Sean Kelley, will be streamed live on Eastern State Penitentiary’s Facebook.

The quickly moving novel coronavirus has left people incarcerated in United States jails, prisons, and detention centers at severe risk. Featured speakers Andrew Cohen and Dr. Gregg Gonsalves will discuss how the nation’s correctional systems are currently responding to this public health crisis and share their thoughts regarding what additional measures could be taken to further protect those living and working in these facilities.

For more information, the public should visit

About the Speakers:

Andrew Cohen is senior editor at The Marshall Project. A former attorney, he is also a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice and a former contributing editor at The Atlantic.

Dr. Gregg Gonsalves is an Assistant Professor in the Department of the Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases at Yale School of Public Health and an Associate Professor (Adjunct) at Yale Law School. For close to 30 years, he has been an AIDS activist. He is a 2018 MacArthur Fellow.

About The Searchlight Series: Eastern State Penitentiary partners with nationally recognized journalists, policy experts, 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.

About Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site: Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site interprets the legacy of American criminal justice reform, from the nation’s founding through to the present day, within the long-abandoned cellblocks of the nation’s most historic prison.

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 prisoners. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells held approximately 80,000 men and women during its 142 years of operation, including bank robber "Slick Willie" Sutton and “Scarface” Al Capone.

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is open for tours seven days a week, year-round. Admission includes “The Voices of Eastern State" Audio Tour, narrated by actor Steve Buscemi; Hands-On History interactive experiences; history exhibits; and a critically acclaimed series of artist installations.

In recent years, Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site has been awarded the prestigious Excellence in Exhibitions award by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the nation’s highest award in exhibition development and design, for its exhibit Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration, as well as the Institutional Award for Special Achievement from the Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and the Trustee Emeritus Award for Stewardship from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Returning Citizens Tour Guide Project, which hires people who were formerly incarcerated to lead tours of the historic site, has won the EdCom Award for Innovation in Museum Education by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and has been featured internationally by such networks as the BBC and others.

For more information, the public should visit


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2017 American Aliance of Museums Excellence in Exhibitions Overall Winner