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'Release Aging People in Prison' Comes to Harrisonburg

Christopher Clymer Kurtz

The American Civil Liberties Union predicts that by 2030, the number of state and federal prisoners who are 55 and older will be more than 400,000, or one-third of prisoners. In Harrisonburg this weekend, the public is invited to attend the premiere event of a new chapter of an organization called Release Aging People in Prison.  WMRA’s Christopher Clymer Kurtz reports.

Release Aging People in Prison, or RAPP, seeks to raise public awareness about the incarceration of elderly people and to promote options for them such as parole or compassionate release.

RAPP started in New York but says it’s now in Maryland, DC, and Richmond. As of Saturday, there will also be a Harrisonburg/Rockingham chapter.

WYNONAH HOGAN: This is a really important issue because it has to do with human rights and people’s lives.

One of the chapter organizers is Wynonah Hogan, the maker of a recent 55-minute documentary Rocktown Justice: UNLOCKED about overcrowding in the Harrisonburg/Rockingham Regional Jail.

HOGAN: I would like to see our chapter find people who are hopefully from this county, from this community, who have been in jail for 20, 30 years and who are now older and no longer a risk to public safety. You know, they've worked hard to educate themselves while they were in prison, and I would like to see us be able to petition the governor and the parole board to get them out and then welcome them back into the community and get them back on their feet.

The Saturday, July 22nd meeting begins at 3:00 at the Church of the Incarnation on Liberty Street.

Christopher Clymer Kurtz was a freelance journalist for WMRA from 2015 - 2019.