Using experience and education to change the incarceration system, Philadelphia Community College

Posted by Community College of Philadelphia on January 16, 2024

At 66, student Mrs. Dee Dee is using her experience and her education to change the incarceration system.

Prison has always cast a shadow on Lorraine Haw’s life, even before she was old enough to understand what a prison was. Lorraine, who is known as Mrs. Dee Dee by her friends and family, grew up on Corinthian Avenue in Philadelphia—literally across the street from Eastern State Penitentiary.

“I used to see guards up there,” Mrs. Dee Dee said. “I never knew they were guards. I just thought they were men with sticks. It wasn’t until I was older, until I came to comprehend, they were guards with guns.”

Today, the Eastern State Penitentiary is a historic site and haunted house attraction, but it was still a functioning prison when Mrs. Dee Dee was growing up. Reminiscing, she said, “We used to ride our homemade scooters and skates on a little hill back there.”

At the age of 66, Mrs. Dee Dee is a current student at Community College of Philadelphia pursuing her associate degree in Criminal Justice. She is part of the College’s I Am More reentry program, which provides case management, tutoring and social support to students who have been incarcerated—Mrs. Dee Dee was in prison on drug charges from 1989 to 1990.

She also serves as an organizer with The Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration, a collective of human rights organizations working to stop life imprisonment sentences. On top of that, she has volunteered during record expungement and pardoning clinics organized by the City of Philadelphia and hosted at the College.

She said she’s doing it all for her son, Phillip Ocampo. Phillip has been in prison for nearly 30 years. He was convicted of second-degree murder at the age of 18, a charge that carries a life sentence with no possibility of parole.

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