The federal penitentiary in Lewisburg is often the focus of LPP's work.
Lewisburg News Agency
The federal penitentiary in Lewisburg is often the focus of LPP’s work.
Group Advocates for Prisoners’ Rights

Immersed in the bustle of daily life on Bucknell’s scenic campus, students and community members are often oblivious to the reality of those behind bars, who are living less than three miles away in the Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary. Hoping to raise awareness at the University, the Lewisburg Prison Project (LPP) sponsored a screening this fall at the Campus Theatre of From Behind the Wall. The series focuses on the unjust conditions and treatment prisoners face in reform centers across the nation.

“The project’s aim with events like this one is to keep the project and the prison on people’s radar and try to create and maintain awareness that we have this huge federal penitentiary just down the road,” says LPP board member Deirdre O’Connor, Writing Center director.

O’Connor is one several faculty and staff members who work with the LPP to improve the treatment of all prisoners. A nonprofit legal advocacy organization, the group has provided aid to prisoners nationwide since 1973, when it was co-founded by Brigette Cooke and Isabelle Patten, spouses of two former University professors.

The LPP gained national recognition in 2016 when NPR featured its work concerning the Lewisburg Penitentiary’s Special Management Unit (SMU). The unit, which was criticized for its harsh conditions, was established in 2009 and has since been moved out of the Lewisburg Penitentiary.

November’s film screening, O’Connor says, was meant to “increase awareness of what it is like to be in prison. It is easy for Bucknell students to not realize when you’re looking out on the quad and seeing those lights that this is a penitentiary. Mass incarceration is a huge issue in the United States, and mistreatment of prisoners needs to change.” — Haley Mullen ’19