Chocolate Cross Day 2022
Chocolate Cross Day was held at the Lancaster County Prison with a follow up Luncheon at the Eden Resort on April 14, 2022, 8am-1:30pm.
Our Event Was a Huge Success Because of You!
Greeting A Christian Through the Bars
At 8am, 29 volunteers who paid $200.00 per person for the privilege to go through the prison arrived to bless the inmates. They handed each one a chocolate cross, a Christian greeting card about the true meaning of Easter and gave a personal Christian greeting to the inmates right through the bars. Our Justice & Mercy volunteers went to every cell block in the prison and let the prisoners know that God has not forgotten them, and the Church cares about their present, and their future. We’ve been doing this every year for the past 15 years at Lancaster County Prison. Our goal is to let the prisoners and staff know that the Church showed up to bless them with a message of hope. The handout went great, and the Spirit of God was upon the prison and the volunteers. Each one felt like they were about to make a difference in the lives of the inmates and in their own life to refocus their perspective in meeting need to those who feel they’ve been forgotten. Jesus said, “I was in prison”, so we we’re looking for Him, and we found Him among the least of these.
Public Officials Spoke with Great Ideas After We Prayed for Them
The volunteers and other guests then arrived about 10 am at the Eden Resort 222 Eden Rd, Lancaster, PA. We were blessed to hear about testimonies of the handout and four speakers which included District Attorney of Lancaster County, Heather Adams; Lancaster County Warden Cheryl Steberger; Lancaster County Vice-Commissioner, Joshua Parsons; and Volunteer Coordinator of the PA Prison Society, John Hargreaves. We laid hands on the speakers and prayed for them before they spoke. It was amazing how the Spirit of the Lord was in the meeting as we talked about prison reform and changes that are being made in the Criminal Justice System. We all know the system is far from perfect, but on April 14th, we continued to work on it to be more Godly and more just, particularly for the poor. Justice & Mercy is called to affect public policy for good, and we will continue to do so.
Looking for Jesus in Prison
Presently, our primary work is our Matthew 25:36 project, where Jesus says, “I was in prison, and you visited me”. Justice & Mercy, through the PA Prison Society (PPS), has the right and responsibility to visit any prisoner in private throughout the State of PA, in County jails and State prisons. We’re able to make a substantial difference in many prisoners lives through letters, phone calls, emails, and occasionally personal visits in the prison. Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to visit all the requests we get. That’s where you come in.
Hearing Inmates Problems
When inmates’ problems at the prison can be solved without a personal visit, it’s much more economical. The hard work is being able to understand the problem a prisoner faces, and then come up with a solution that works for the prisoner, his family, and the prison, plus the people of PA. This requires time, equaling $100-1,000 per solution. There is no true justice without some mercy. Unfortunately, nobody is perfect, and no one can afford to throw the first stone. We work hard to get to the right decision for everyone involved. Thank you for helping us do the right thing.
Tough Problems are a little Harder & Impossibilities Take a lot Longer & More Prayer
Of course, there are much tougher cases that we work on like alternate sentencing before a person goes to trial, helping deserving people get parole and a home plan that guarantees successful reentry into society. Then there are the innocent people who’ve been convicted of a crime they didn’t commit, called wrongful conviction. Justice & Mercy has served on the Innocence Commission appointed by the Senate of PA for a three-year period, and we are amazed how many innocent people are serving a murder conviction where the exculpatory evidence has proved they’re innocent and they’ve been set free. Unfortunately, we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg. Finding the truth about innocence or guilt can be lengthy and expensive process. Along with other organizations, Justice & Mercy estimates we’ve been able to help about 300 people get set free in PA, through discovery of exculpatory evidence or DNA testing. This process can take 5-20 years as the truth is not always easy to discover. The problem with convicting an innocent person is, the real perpetrator is still out there committing more crimes. Justice & Mercy works at improving public policy and improving the criminal justice world, so we get the right perpetrator the first time.
Good relationships with Public Officials are Important & Prayer is More Important
After it’s all said and done, sometimes your prayers are the only thing that make the difference. Revelations 8:3-4 paraphrased says God is still hearing our prayers and an Angel who stands before the throne is offering our prayers up to God. Please keep praying and giving, as God is still on the throne.
Thanks so much for your help, and may God bless you a hundred-fold for all you do, and give, and pray.
By Dr. Tom Zeager, President
Justice & Mercy, Inc.
Pictures of Our event
CHOCOLATE CROSS DAY MARCH 30, 2021
Keynote Speaker: Speaker of PA House Bryan Cutler Special Guest Speaker: Warden Cheryl Steberger, Lancaster County Prison Guest Speaker Attorney Chris Sarno, Clymer, Musser, Sarno P.C. Guest Speaker: John Hargreaves from PA Prison Society
Newsletter July 2020
What’s New, You Ask?
Justice & Mercy Monthly Newsletter--July 2020
COVID-19 and the PA prisons
According to the Pennsylvania Prison Society (PPS), the reported death toll is 6 people in custody (prison) and 2 correctional staff. PPS believes this number is an undercount since reporting is not happening as it could.
“Most county prisons are not regularly reporting on the virus spread. Neither the Pennsylvania Department of Health nor the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections require county prisons to report testing information or virus-related deaths. While the state releases numbers on the spread of coronavirus in nursing homes every day, Pennsylvanians behind bars are not counted’ (direct quote from the PPS newsletter dated 5/26/2020. For more information please go to the site below.
What is Justice & Mercy currently involved in?
We have several cases we are working on: Here are two
PL is currently in Lancaster County Prison where he will be going before the court. PL has had a troubled traumatic past. He was put into the foster system at a very early age. His parents and his family did not want anything to do with him. He went from foster home to foster home and was finally adopted by his foster parents. However, PL was abused by those parents. Consequently, he made wrong choices and ended up in jail on many occasions. PL is reaching out to Justice & Mercy. He wants to be put into a Christian based program to teach him those life skills he never learned. PL states, that his use of drugs was to kill the pain from the trauma of his childhood abuse. He understands that going upstate to prison is probably not going to make him a better person and is requesting assistance to get into a strong Christian program that will help him make proper choices and become a strong productive citizen.
JM Partner, what can you do for PL? Please keep him in your prayers. He is a Christian and he says he wants to do the right thing.
Justice & Mercy’s -- Current Case:
2. Angela Diaz
Angela Diaz is a wife and a mother of two children was living her dream! Then, one fateful day Angela found herself in prison charged with 1st degree murder. Her world would come suddenly crashing down. It all appeared to be a bad dream.
Justice & Mercy has taken a position that Angela Diaz is an unpretentious, gentle natured,
Good Sarmatian that is wrongfully charged with 1st degree murder. Angela has been in the
Lancaster County Prison for over 24 months without a trial. Justice & Mercy has hired Chris
Sarno, Esq. from Clymer, Musser, & Sarno, PC., to defend Angela. The Attorney General , Josh Shapiro is wanting to make an example of Angela. Their position is that Angela got frustrated, lost her cool, and beat the child up badly, killing her in the bathtub. They have no facts, they have bruises on the body, pictures, and not one witness.
Tom Zeager, President of Justice & Mercy and several others associated with Justice & Mercy do not believe that Angela is lying when she states she did not do it. The Attorney General’s office is pushing for 1st degree murder, which is life. Without $250,000.00 for hiring of professional people to research and forensic evidence we are not going to move this case to innocence. We are praying and believing that in the 500 pages of information that the attorney has, we will find something in there to defend Diaz with.
JM Partner, What can you do for Angela? Angela needs finances to hire forensics investigators to assist her case. She also needs you to pray!
Just Mercy--by Bryan Stevenson
Just Mercy is a true must-read book. It describes the work of Bryan Stevenson, founder of Equal Justice Initiative (a legal practice defending the poor, wrongly condemned, and those trapped in the criminal justice system). Walter McMillian was released from prison after being on death row for a murder he did not commit. To read further about McMillan’s case please go to: https://eji.org/cases/walter-mcmillian.
This is an excerpt from the book, “Just Mercy”
“I just come here to help people. This is a place full of pain, so people need plenty of help around here,” said an older lady sitting on marble steps of the courthouse. She went on to say, “It’s what I’m supposed to do.” This lady explained that her sixteen-year-old grandson had been murdered. She grieved and grieved. She went to the court every day for the trail of the boys that killed her grandson. “The judge sentenced them to prison forever. I thought it would make me feel better, but it actually made me feel worse’, said the grandma. So, now she goes to the courthouse to let those who need someone to lean on, lean on her. “I come here to catch some of the stones people cast at each other.”
Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone—John 8:7
“Today, our self-righteousness, our fear, and our anger have caused even the Christians to hurl stones at the people who fall down, even when we know we should forgive or show compassion. We can’t simply watch this happen; we need to be stone catchers” (Stevenson, 2015).
Stevenson, B. (2015). Just Mercy: A story of justice and redemption. New York: Spiegel & Grau.
**If you would like a copy of this book, let us know at Justice & Mercy.
JM Partner, here’s how you can help.
1. Become a Pennsylvania Prison Society (PPS) Monitor and visit inmates.
2. Donate to Justice & Mercy as we continue this work.
3. Pray for the inmates and for Justice & Mercy.
‘Let’s be Stone-Catchers’
Together We Make a Difference!
JM Partner, please consider in becoming a Matthew 25/25 Partner:
Justice & Mercy’s core principal is found in Mathew 25:36, “What is the greatest
commandment of all?” To which, Jesus answered, “Love your neighbor with all your heart”.
Our mission is to follow these words by ministering to inmates and their families. Your Christian love, your generosity, and prayers will allow Justice & Mercy to continue to expand our ministry by reaching out and giving inmates and their families a voice and an advocate in the criminal justice system.
For your generous automatic monthly donation of $25.00 on 25th day of each month for a year or a one gift of $300.00, Justice & Mercy will give you reserved seating, priority signup for all of our events, and a gift to you.
Justice & Mercy is committed to Praying for Our Partners!
(Please write your prayer request)
We need your help!
JM Partner, we are updating our mailing list information. Please take a few moments and fill out the donation/address form for us. We would like your email address (if you have one), your birthdates, and phone numbers. This information will not be shared with anyone, it’s for
Justice & Mercy use only. Thank you for your help on this.
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**Click the Link below**
JM Partner, presently county jails are housing a large majority are poor that cannot afford a good attorney or bail and must rely on public defender’s office. How should this system be changed to give the poor have a better chance at justice?
(Please put your answer below)
The Angela Diaz Case
The Angela Diaz Case:
Angela Diaz is a wife and a mother of two children. She supported her children in the many activities they were involved in and also belonged to the Parent/Teacher Organization (PTO). Angela watched her daughter participate in gymnastics at a competition level and become a lead cheerleader. Angela was living her dream! Then, one fateful day Angela found herself in prison charged with 1st degree murder. Her world would come suddenly crashing down. It all appeared to be a bad dream.
Angela’s cousin and his wife asked Angela to keep their two girls, Brooklyn and Dallas, for a period of time. Without hesitating, Angela and her husband drove down to Georgia from Pennsylvania to pick up the two little girls. The girls were not cared for by their parents and were in need of love and attention. Angela and her family took the girls in like their own. For six weeks, the girls lived with Angela and her family. Brooklyn and Dallas flourished with the love and care they so desperately needed. The parents stated they were ready to take the girls back home to Georgia. It was apparent after a short period of time Angela’s cousin and his wife were ill prepared to care for the 2 little girls. Angela and her husband picked up the two girls again upon request of the parents. It was clear that the girls were different this time. Little Brooklyn was quiet, reserved, fearful, weak, bruised, thin, and fell often during the day. Angela went right to work caring for the girls without thinking to notify the authorities of their current condition.
Then one day life changed as they knew it. Angela had taken her children and the two little cousins to a sporting event and a park nearby. Upon returning home, Brooklyn started vomiting profusely. Angela became frantic and called 911 and Brooklyn was immediately transported to the hospital. Unfortunately, Brooklyn died. The little girl was brain dead, and a few days later life sustaining measures were removed. Angela was arrested for the murder of Brooklyn. Angela unequivocally states she did not commit this crime. Justice & Mercy has received 50 letters from various people stating Angela did not commit this crime!
Justice & Mercy has taken a position that Angela Diaz is an unpretentious, gentle natured, Good Sarmatian that is wrongfully charged with 1st degree murder. Angela has been in theLancaster County Prison for over 24 months without a trial. Justice & Mercy has hired Chris Sarno, Esq. from Clymer, Musser, & Sarno, PC., to defend Angela. The Attorney General , Josh Shapiro is wanting to make an example of Angela. Their position is that Angela got frustrated, lost her cool, and beat the child up badly, killing her in the bathtub. They have no facts, they have bruises on the body, pictures, and not one witness.
Tom Zeager, President of Justice & Mercy and several others associated with Justice & Mercy do not believe that Angela is lying when she states she did not do it. The Attorney General’s office is pushing for 1stdegree murder, which is life. Without $250,000.00 for hiring of professional people to research and forensic evidence we are not going to move this case to innocence. We are praying and believing that in the 500 pages of information that the attorney has, we will find something in there to defend Diaz with.
What can you do for Angela? Angela needs finances to hire forensics investigators to assist her case. She also needs your prayers!
Our New Website
In an effort to improve our ability to serve our partners and community better, we have updated our website. We would really like to know what you think. Please fill out this short survey.
DO WE HAVE A NEW NORMAL?
What are some things that changed in this season of our lives?
1. School cancelled parents are forced to home school.
2. Social distancing
3. Tape on floors at grocery stores for social distancing
4. Limited number of people in stores
5. Church closed and services online—the church has been deployed for first time—we now have church online, including Bible Studies online.
6. Non-essential stores and businesses closed—including liquor stores and gun shops
7. Parks, trails, entire cities locked up
8. Entire sport season, concerts, tours, festivals, and weddings cancelled
9. Panic buying, toilet paper, paper towels, and hand sanitizer hard to find.
10. Selves bare in stores
11. Government incentives to stay home
12. Gas prices lowest in years-nowhere to go
13. Wearing masks to go outside our home.
14. Facetime and Zoom to family.
15. Restaurants with curbside service, Hair Salons, Nail Salons closed.
16. Justice & Mercy Calendar of events postponed.
17. Daily updates from Governor Wolf.
18. Need a Note to Go to work!!
1. People are having family dinners at home, again.
2. Spending time with family, games, crafts, talking, being together.
3. Learning about each other (we hope this is a positive experience for you).
4. Families are walking together outside.
REFLECT ON YOUR FAMILY
What are some Positive things that have happened this season? Talk about it with your Family.
On a Good note—many churches have adapted to the change. Online platforms are reporting the highest number of people viewing of their services.
There are so many positive things that have come out of “this detour”.
In Philippines 4:8 it says, “Whatsoever, things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report…think on these things”.
DO WE HAVE A NEW NORMAL?
WHAT IS MARCY'S LAW?
Marsy’s Law—What is it—What does it mean?
How it all began
Marsy was a 21-year-old girl just prior to her graduating from the University of California Santa Barbara in 1983 when she was stalked and murdered by her ex-boyfriend. A few weeks after the Marsy’s funeral the family was at a store and was confronted by Marsy’s murderer. The family was unaware Marsy’s murder had been released on bail.
“If any good can come of something this horrible – the loss of my sister and the losses of other families of crime victims – it is that these violent acts served as a catalyst for change,” Dr. Nicholas said. “Marsy’s Law will provide for a more compassionate justice system for crime victims in California and make that a constitutional guarantee.
-Dr. Henry T. Nicolas III, Marsy Nicolas’ brother, Founder and Chairman of Marsy’s Law
Marsy’s Law in PA
Marsy’s law was a referendum on the ballot in PA in November 2019. The majority of the voters were in favor of Marsy’s law. Just before the election in November, Mary’s Law was challenged by the ACLU and the League of Women Voters. The case went before the PA Supreme Court which stated, “votes cast for the Marsy's Law ballot referendum on victims' rights would not be counted, affirming an order from the state Commonwealth Court”
“Proponents of Marsy’s Law, say it will give victims a greater voice in criminal court proceedings, including providing notice to them for pending court hearings”. According to the ACLU, “Marsy’s Law attempts to “restore balance” to our criminal system by granting victims co-equal rights to the accused. While intended to appeal to our sense of fairness, it dangerously ignores the different purposes each right serve”. Although, Justice & Mercy does not always agree with the ACLU and the League for Women Voters, in this case we Do Not support Marsy’s law. Here are some of the reasons why.
“Marsy's Law creates 15 constitutional rights for crime victims that impact three articles and eight different sections of the state constitution. By bundling many amendments into a single “yes” or “no” proposal, the ballot question denied voters their right to choose which provisions of Marsy’s Law, if any, to adopt. Voters will instead be forced to make an all-or-nothing choice on the proposed constitutional changes”, according to sources from the ACLU.
We at Justice & Mercy believe in accordance of the way Marsy’s Law was written on the ballot that it impinges on the rights of both the victim and the accused. Dr. Tom Zeager, President of Justice & Mercy’s opinion is that the court can convict the accused without the accused testimony. Therefore, Justice & Mercy is opposed to Marsy’s law as it currently stands.
**for more information check out the following:
REPRIEVE OF SENTENCES
Temporary Program to Reprieve Sentences of Incarceration
In an attempt to mitigate vulnerable inmates for protection against COVID 19 Governor Wolf has signed an emergent order on April 10, 2020 for release of about 1,800 state prisoners. Vulnerable inmates include those over 65, those with chronic medical conditions, such as, severe obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, liver disease, that would make them at higher risk for complications of COVID 19 according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Reentry of prisoners will take a combined effort to provide housing, behavioral health system, treatments programs in the community, food, medication supply, transportation, and complete medical screening to ensure they are not releasing prisoners that are sick. Because of these challenges the reentry of prisoners will be less than the 1800 amount that is eligible.
According to Sec. Wetzel, “While on temporary reprieve, individuals will be monitored similarly to parolees and will be supervised by parole agents. Upon expiration of the order, individuals would be returned to prison to complete any remaining portion of their sentences”.
Justice & Mercy believes that if the prisoners are able to be released and continue to do well, following the guidelines of their release, then these prisoners should not be put back in prison for the remainder of their sentence.
**Something to think about--What is your opinion on this order?