Since 1787, the Pennsylvania Prison Society has worked to ensure humane prison and jail conditions and advocate for sensible criminal justice policies. In the age of mass incarceration, this mission is more relevant than ever.
The Society is the oldest organization in the country dedicated to sensible and humane criminal justice. Today the Society advocates for systemic policy change, responds to the concerns of inmates and their families, provides subsidized bus service for Philadelphia families visiting loved ones incarcerated in different parts of the state, and provides assistance to individuals returning home from incarceration.
The cornerstone of the Society's work is a network of volunteers, known as Official Visitors, who visit prisoners throughout Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania law authorizes the Prison Society to designate volunteers to visit any prison or jail in the Commonwealth. Prison Society volunteers (i.e. Official Visitors) have authority to privately interview any inmate in any prison or jail for any reason.
Official Visitors visit with inmates throughout the Commonwealth – often becoming the inmate’s only contact with someone outside of their facility. The Society receives approximately 200 requests a month for volunteer visits. Requests come from family members, friends, and the inmates themselves. Approximately half of the requests are for assistance with medical care. In addition to visiting inmates, our volunteers support inmates being released who are re-establishing themselves in the community, provide social programming in prisons and jails, and inspect facilities.
The Society is the sole organization in the Commonwealth with this authority. It is also the only non-profit organization in the United States with this degree of access to jails and prisons.