MCLU Baldwin Award Recognizes Prisoner Rights Advocates

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
October 8, 2010 12:00 am

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The Maine Civil Liberties Union will proudly present the 2010 Roger Baldwin Award to Reverend Stan Moody of Manchester, Dr. Janis Petzel of Hallowell and Emily Posner formerly of Montville for their extraordinary contributions to the campaign to end solitary confinement in Maine at the 2010 MCLU Annual Meeting & Celebration on October 15 at 7 P.M. at the Wells Conference Center at the University of Maine.

“Our Baldwin Award honorees worked tirelessly to secure protections for one of our most vulnerable populations – prisoners,” said MCLU Executive Director Shenna Bellows. “They gave a public voice to what so many of us continue to hope for – a time when no American is subjected to cruel and unusual punishment at the hands of the State.”

Reverend Stan Moody served as a chaplain at the Maine State Prison for two years. During the public hearing for LD 1611, Representative Jim Schatz’s (D – Blue Hill) bill that would have limited the use of solitary confinement in Maine prisons, Reverend Moody provided powerful firsthand accounts to legislators of the conditions in Maine’s solitary confinement units. He serves as a pastor in Manchester, Maine and is a board member of the Maine Prison Industries Council. He is a former Maine State Representative and author of Crisis in Evangelical Scholarship and McChurched: 300 Million Served and Still Hungry.

Dr. Janis Petzel, M.D., worked during the solitary confinement campaign to mobilize the medical community in her role as then-President of the Maine Association of Psychiatric Physicians (MAPP). During the public hearing, she provided powerful expert testimony to legislators about the psychological effects of solitary confinement on prisoners. Petzel continues to work on issues of access to mental health services, particularly in prisons, as chair of MAPP’s Legislative and Governmental Affairs Committee. She practices psychiatry in Hallowell and at the Togus Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Augusta.

Emily Posner is a student and advocate who initiated the legislation to reform solitary confinement in Maine. In 2008, Posner began corresponding with Herman Wallace, a prisoner who has spent 38 years in solitary confinement at the notorious Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana. Inspired by this relationship, Emily worked with her Representative to draft legislation. As a volunteer, she spent countless hours at the State House to lobby and organize for the bill. She now studies at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.

“Reverend Moody, Dr. Petzel, and Ms. Posner have shown the leadership and the commitment that will be necessary to achieve lasting prison reform,” said MCLU Legal Director Zachary Heiden. “When we finally bring about an end to solitary confinement in Maine, it will be because of the leadership shown by clergy, doctors, and community activists.”

David Fathi, Director of the ACLU National Prison Project, will be the featured speaker for the event. The Prison Project brings challenges to conditions of confinement in prisons, jails and other detention facilities and works to end US overreliance on incarceration. Fathi has special expertise in challenging “supermax” prisons, where prisoners are held for months or years at a time in conditions of near-total isolation. He has lectured national and internationally on criminal justice issues. His op-eds have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle, and other major media outlets. He is a graduate of the University of Washington and the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.

The MCLU award is named for Roger Baldwin, an ardent activist for social justice who helped found the American Civil Liberties Union, and served as its Director until 1950. During his term as director, the ACLU took on many of its most famous cases, including the Scopes “Monkey trial” in Tennessee where school officials had challenged the teaching of evolution, and the “Scottsboro Boys” cases that established the right to counsel in state criminal proceedings and standards for fair juries. Baldwin remained active in the cause of civil rights and civil liberties until his death in 1981 at the age of 97. Among his many achievements, Baldwin was invited by Gen. Douglas MacArthur to travel to Japan to help ensure the protection of civil liberties as the country wrote its constitution.

The MCLU Annual Meeting & Celebration will be held in the Wells Conference Center at the University of Maine on Friday, October 15th. The event, scheduled to begin at 7 P.M., is free and open to the public, but an RSVP is encouraged. Appetizers and light refreshments will be on hand.

For more information or to schedule an interview with a Baldwin honoree or David Fathi, please call Edward Reilly at 774-5444.

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