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Eastern State Penitentiary showing inmate-created films


The Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site last week unveiled Hidden Lives Illuminated, a month-long project that features nightly screenings of animated short films created by inmates at the State Correctional Institution at Chester and the city’s Riverside Correctional Facility for Women.

Sean Kelley, senior vice president at Eastern State, said the organization has taken a stand against “mass incarceration.”

John Wetzel, secretary for the state Department of Corrections, made a video statement, saying the films represent the 46,000 individuals in Pennsylvania prisons.

Sharon Griggs, the wife of one of the film creators, spoke to the crowd at the Aug. 14 unveiling, talking about the meaningful lives led by inmates.

Kelley thanked Wetzel and city prisons commissioner Blanche Carney and public information officer Shawn Hawes for making the project possible.

Films will be screened on a 20-foot by 30-foot area of the former prison’s facade each night through Sept. 12. Times are 7 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Twenty films, narrated by the inmates, will be shown. Screenings are free. There are bleachers set up on both sides of Fairmount Avenue outside Eastern State, 2100 Fairmount Ave.

The weekly themes are The View from Inside, Criminal Justice Today, Family and Community Impact and Restorative Justice. All 20 films, along with a documentary about the project, will be shown on Sept. 12.

The project was in the works for three years and was inspired by Damon Locks, who created Freedom/Time, which debuted in Chicago in 2015.

For more information, visit hiddenlives.org. ••

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