Protest of Lancaster County prison conditions planned tonight

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | May 29, 2015 12:02 PM

(Lancaster) -- About 50 people are expected to protest conditions at Lancaster County Prison this evening. The rally comes after inmates were heard shouting complaints about the food and time outside of their cell.

The complaints started Sunday and resumed on Tuesday, though the shouts have reportedly stopped.

Still, a group is expected to gather outside the prison and highlight what it calls horrible conditions.

The prison's food service company didn't include cheese on sandwiches Sunday, and went to one larger slice of meat instead of two, prompting the shouts.

But prisoners also take issue with punishments that can result in 23 hours in a cell every day.

Naomi Leapheart, a student at Lancaster Theological Seminary, says she's being realistic about what the protest might accomplish.

"I'm not sure how this will move the warden or move the commissioners to do anything different in terms of Lancaster County Prison as a result of this specific action, but I do hope that it raises awareness in the general public, and sparks a conversation that's much-needed and long overdue," she says.

Leapheart says the latest incident highlights the mass incarceration problem in the United States.

"I'm concerned that A) we're mistreating human beings, but also that we as a society think that it's actually okay for people incarcerated to live less than quality lives."

Even without including costs for counties and municipalities, the state spends more than $2 billion a year on prisons.

Of the 960 inmates at the Lancaster County Prison, about 26 percent have been sentenced.

The others are either waiting for a trial and are presumed innocent, or violated terms of their probation or parole.

The Lancaster County Prison Warden didn't immediately return a call from WITF on the prison's conditions.

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