On July 24, 2007, Harmon Wray, 60, died of a massive brain hemorrhage at a hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. Harmon was one of PLN?s earliest subscribers back in the 1990s. We corresponded off and on over the years and I finally had the privilege of meeting Harmon in person in November, 2006, while we were both attending a conference in New Mexico. Harmon was no fair weather activist. Dedicated to the cause of civil rights since 1968 after attending divinity school, Harmon became an early advocate and supporter of prisoners? rights. He published books and articles, marched, organized, and advocated for prisoners for almost 40 years. He was arrested during an anti-death penalty demonstration at the Tennessee governor?s mansion in 2000.
Harmon was a man of quiet dignity and strength and was a pleasure to know and work with. He lived a life of service to the poor and oppressed. No armchair advocate, he acted on his beliefs and dedicated his life to the cause of justice. He is survived by his mother Celeste and his partner of 35 years, Judy Parks. Harmon served on the board of the Private Corrections Institute, which advocates against private prisons. Over the years he had led or been active with a wide range of criminal justice and anti-death penalty related groups. He co-authored ?Restorative Justice: Moving Beyond Punishment? (2002) and ?Beyond Prisons? (2006), and taught a class to prisoners at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.
It is no exaggeration to say that the cause of justice and prisoners has lost a great advocate and comrade in the struggle for justice. Everyone at PLN extends our condolences to Harmon?s many friends and his family.
On July 26, 2007, Patrick McManus, 69, died in a Minnesota hospital from a toe infection that spread and ultimately damaged his kidneys and liver.
Pat was a long-time prison official; at one time he was the director of the Kansas Department of Corrections. In recent years he had worked as an expert witness and criminal justice consultant. I first met him this February when we were in Wichita, Kansas and he testified on behalf of PLN as an expert witness in our challenge to the Kansas DOC?s ban on gift subscriptions and publications. His easy manner and common sense approach were great. We are awaiting a ruling from the court.
Pat was also the monitor of the Fulton county jail in Georgia and was overseeing court-ordered efforts to bring that facility into the 21st century and ensure minimal compliance with civilized norms. Predictably, he was meeting fierce resistance from Fulton County?s sheriff, but he persisted and was doing his job all too well at the time of his death.
In many respects Pat was a dinosaur of the prison system, a throwback to a time when people went to work in prisons with the ridiculous notion that they could help people and send them out of prison better than when they arrived, or at least not harm them and return them to society in worse shape than when they entered. Pat will be missed and PLN extends our condolences to Pat?s family.
On that rather depressing note I will end this month?s editorial.
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