Friday, July 12, 2013

Spending Money Wisely

Divine Lorraine Hotel in 2013
Today we learned about how budget cuts affect communities by taking a close look at prisons, gardens and public schools. Since we were in the area, we first looked at the Divine Lorraine Hotel, which is now abandoned and graffiti covered. It was originally the first hotel in Philadelphia, founded by Father Divine, to accept and celebrate racial diversity. Father Divine was an African American who was married to a White woman who led the cult called Universal Peace Mission Movement. Michael, our teacher, had actually been to one of the banquets they held in the nineties in this very hotel. His stories and lessons were very interesting and said a lot about the history of this area.

An average cell
We then rushed over to the Eastern State Penitentiary, where we met our tour guides. We began by looking at Cell Block 2, where we learned the original plan for the prison. It was to have 7 cell blocks which radiate from a central surveillance area in the center, always tended to by a security guard. Each prisoner was to stay for only a few years and treated equally, no matter what crime they had committed. They were to each have their own cell and live in solitary confinement. The cells were built with small outdoor exercise chambers attached that the inmates could spend an hour a day in. Skylights were built in each cell to provide natural light and to give them a chance to feel closer to God. The architecture of the original seven cell blocks are similar to that of a church, on purpose. The conditions that were planned to be at this penitentiary were to be much better than other prisons, which kept all of the prisoners in one room where they were free to fight, gamble and commit more crime. We also got to see where Al Capone stayed for nearly a year after being arrested in Philadelphia for carrying illegal weapons. He got to have special conditions because of his wealth and power.
Al Capone's cell
My friend Cathy and I holding up our notes
When our tour was over, we walked over to an urban garden and found that it must have been very expensive. The fence surround the full block garden must have cost at least a couple million dollars. We also visited a local high school and some of the kids in our class, who go to school in Philadelphia, presented to us about the protests and budget cuts they have been experiencing. Virtually everything had been cut from their schools besides the five or so main school subjects. Here, they don't have an elected school board so the power lies in the hands of people that the community doesn't even get to choose. It was shocking to see how little they seemed to care about educating the next generation.

After lunch, we had some speakers. First, our TA Julia Graber talked to us briefly about the cycle of prison and the problems that our modern system brings up. Dr. Kirk James, who is staff at UPENN, continued the discussion about prison and talked from first hand experience as he had been incarcerated before. Some students in the class decided to do the creative style notes again. So much interesting and important information was being discussed that I filled up pretty much the entire page! I've found that I am very interested in why people do things and what provokes them, therefore I enjoy learning about crime because I like to wonder what made the criminal do what he or she did. 

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps you should study Economics, the science of how people make choices :-)