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Signature campaign to ban solitary confinement in a local prison nears end.

NEPA Stands Up

A local grassroots organization is hoping to end solitary confinement at the Lackawanna County Prison by petitioning for a referendum question to be on the ballot during the November general election.

“Solitary confinement is one of the most egregious human rights abuses that are committed at the Lackawanna County Prison, but also all over the United States," said Alec Walker-Serrano, the communications director for NEPA Stands Up.

The chapter is part of the larger Pennsylvania Stands Up organization. They have until Tuesday to turn in the more than 8,000 signatures needed to get on the ballot.

Over the past few weeks canvassers from the organization were stationed around the county and have been going door to door to get signatures.

“We're trying to connect to everyday people and bring them into the political process in meaningful ways," said Walker-Serrano.

The organization has discussed issues at the prison with former and current inmates and friends and family of those incarcerated.

"They know how terrible that infrastructure is there in terms of not getting physical and mental health evaluations, not getting you know, a book to read, not getting proper time to talk to their attorneys ... things that are just very, very basic necessities and they're just not happening, especially for people in solitary confinement," said Walker-Serrano.

NEPA Stands Up defines solitary confinement as more than 20 hours in a cell.

Under the proposal, Lackawanna County’s home rule charter would be amended to prohibit the use of solitary confinement. There would be exceptions, including facility-wide lockdown or if a mental or behavioral health professional determines that the person poses a danger to themselves or others within the jail. If voters approve the referendum, the amendment would go in effect 30 days after its adoption.

The organization is holding a series of events this weekend to spread awareness of their mission as well as garner more signatures.

NEPA Stands Up is hosting Illuminating Isolation: A Community Art Show to Shine a Light on Ending Solitary today, Aug. 5, from 5 to 9 p.m. at Crocus Cafe on Washington Avenue in Scranton.

On Saturday, they will have a table and replica of a solitary confinement cell at the Good Things are Happening Festival at the Iron Furnaces, also in Scranton. NEPA Stands Up will host a Community Fun Day and final signature collection on Sunday around the bandstand at Nay Aug Park in Scranton from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For more details, visit NEPA Stands Up on Facebook and Instagram.

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.