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In 1998, my husband David Madeira and I bought a one acre neglected corner lot with a dilapidated bungalow. ​Until the 1700s, the site was inhabited by Lenape Indians. In the early 1920’s, it was a recreational retreat for African-American communities. When we arrived, the only plantings besides a few azaleas were three massive oak trees. I knew right away that this acre possessed a unique, vital energy.

I garden on this site year after year, constantly refining and adding to a vision of color and contrast, another canvas. Such intimacy with the earth has deeply impacted my quality of life.  I have been fortunate to be able to spend so much time on this land in the company of these spectacular trees.

 

In solitude, gardening, I think about how pardoning has always mystified me. This began in earnest in 1988 when I taught painting in State Correctional Institutions. At that time I was able to paint portraits of prisoners directly and record their thoughts.  


Within a year of teaching and painting portraits at the State Correctional Institution at Muncy, the only state correctional institution for women in Pennsylvania at that time, I wanted to focus on bringing visibility to the lifers. In Pennsylvania, all life-sentences are issued without parole. Freedom depends upon the mercy of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons and ultimately the Governor of Pennsylvania. Legions of rehabilitated prisoners are warehoused for decades, impacting not only them, but their families, communities, and therefore, all of us.


In the early 1990’s I worked with the only person employed by the state correctional system to represent prisoners seeking pardon, primarily for life-sentences.  As the Director of the Arts and Humanities Program with the Pennsylvania Prison Society,  I initiated programs designed to bring visibility to lifers.  I visited Harrisburg over the period of one year, monthly, to observe the activity of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons in real time.  I witnessed the devastation experienced by unforgiven but rehabilitated prisoners, inhumanely trapped for decades.  Many were incarcerated as children.   

 

With it's close proximity by train, this site is easily accessible. For now and I hope for a long time to come, this land can be appreciated as a retreat to gather and consider the mystery and majesty of pardoning.  

 

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