When Someone on the Outside Has Your Back

by Theresa Shoatz and Suzy Subways

From PHN Issue 33, Summer 2017

Sometimes it’s hard to get medical care when you need it behind the walls. For readers who have family, friends or a partner on the outside to help, here are some suggestions for them to try. You may want to clip this article and send it to them. Continue reading “When Someone on the Outside Has Your Back”

How Loved Ones Outside Can Advocate for People in Prison


By Theresa Shoatz

From PHN Issue 25, Summer 2015

For readers who have family, friends or a partner on the outside to help them get urgently needed health care, here are some suggestions for those outside prison to try. Philadelphia activist Theresa Shoatz perfected these steps while advocating for her father, former Black Panther Russell Maroon Shoatz, a political prisoner in Pennsylvania. As she says, “I have a passion to keep him healthy because one day, we’ll get him out.”

10 steps for loved ones on the outside:

  1. Your loved one in prison will probably need to fill out a medical release form to let you access their health information. In many places, they can ask a counselor for this form. Continue reading “How Loved Ones Outside Can Advocate for People in Prison”

“To Help Our People Through This”

Rev. Doris Green on healing communities from the impact of imprisonment and HIV

Reverend Doris Green, founder of Men and Women Prison Ministries and director of community affairs at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, has been working with prisoners and their families for decades, and fighting AIDS since the epidemic began. She is organizing a coalition of grassroots community organizations to demand access to condoms in the Illinois state prison system. The condom campaign is a policy demand based on the knowledge that good prison health is good community health. “The people on the inside are the people on the outside,” she says. Rev. Green sees her political advocacy as intimately connected with her counseling work with individuals and small groups, rebuilding the community support networks torn apart by mass imprisonment.

Because of mandatory minimum sentences, discriminatory crack possession sentencing, three-strikes laws and other hallmarks of the “war on drugs,” there are now 10 times as many people in prison than there were 20 years ago. People of African descent represent 56% of those imprisoned for drug offenses but only 14% of illicit drug users. “The disparity makes you think nobody’s committing crimes but African Americans and Hispanics,” Rev. Green says. In the past decade, new policies shut ex-prisoners out of public housing, jobs, and social safety net programs. With so many parents, children, spouses and caregivers removed from the community, the emotional, financial and political support systems of entire communities are disrupted.

Continue reading ““To Help Our People Through This””