Southern Coalition on Jails and Prisons Records, 1970-1992
- Southern Coalition on Jails and Prisons (U.S.)
- Organized in 1974, the Southern Coalition on Jails and Prisons was formed to promote greater awareness of the problems of prisons and corrections, improve communication between the prison population and the outside world, and advocate for alternatives to the death penalty.
- 10.5 cubic ft.
- English and English
- Preferred citation:
- Preferred citation for this material is as follows: and Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Southern Coalition on Jails and Prisons Records, 1970-1992. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as [shortened name]).
Access and Use
- Conditions Governing Access:
Access to this record group is unrestricted with the exception of one folder in series #3.
The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
- Scope and Content:
The files of the Southern Coalition on Jails and Prisons (SCJP) cover the years 1974 to 1991, the latter being the year the Coalition closed down. Most of the material was maintained by the Coalition's director, Joe Ingle, and documents his work to abolish the death penalty and provide support for prisoners on Death Row. The SCJP collection is broken down into five series: administrative files, fundraising, prisoner case files, subject files, and memorabilia.
The collection includes a sampling of correspondence, financial documents, and mailing lists pertaining to the general operations of the Coalition over the years. Some documents originated with the Coalition's affiliate offices in other southern states, but most seem to be from the SCJP's headquarters. However, there is a distinct lack of financial papers and general correspondence for an agency that operated more than fifteen years, and many of the administrative records date from the years just prior to the end of the Southern Coalition's work. There are also just three issues of the Southern Coalition's newsletter in the collection.
Extensive files exist on individual prisoners who sought the Coalition's help. Those documents frequently contain correspondence from and about the prisoners, their legal histories, and life on Death Row. Many of the files include newspaper clippings maintained by Joe Ingle regarding developments in the prisoners' cases. Inmates who received more media attention at the time of their sentences, stays, and executions tend to have correspondingly larger files from the Southern Coalition.
The other sizable portion of the collection is the fundraising series. These are records of foundations that either donated money to the Southern Coalition or were solicited by them but could not (or would not) support the SCJP. Some institutions, like the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and Playboy Foundation, were regular donors and played a large part in the Coalition's longevity. Most of the files contain correspondence between Ingle and the foundations.
The Southern Coalition collection also covers a wide array of related death penalty topics including collaborative efforts by Amnesty International, documents from the various branches of the Southern Coalition, articles written by Joe Ingle, and material collected by Ingle on his European People-to-People tour in the mid-1980s. Some publicity materials for Ingle's book Last Rights: 13 Fatal Encounters are also present, though there is no manuscript included. There is also a selection of anti-death penalty buttons and a banner used at protests.
Most of the collection was re-housed according to the folder labels that the Southern Coalition employed. Only a few folders with miscellaneous items inside were interfiled with existing folders. Also, many folders were overstuffed and had to be broken down into several sub-folders; those were labeled "1/2", "2/2", etc., depending on the level of breakdown needed.
- Biographical / Historical:
Formed in 1974, the Southern Coalition for Jails and Prisons (SCJP) began its work with a focus on general prisoners' rights. Within the first two to three years of its existence, the coalition's members narrowed their mission to focus more specially on abolition of the death penalty -- not to the exclusion of other prison issues like basic healthcare and visitation rights, but with particular care given to those on death row in the American South. One of their other major projects was advocating for alternatives to incarceration in order to reduce growing numbers in the prison population.
The coalition's director, Joe Ingle, is a North Carolina native and graduate of St. Andrew's College who became a minister of the United Church of Christ [Gaillard, Frank. "Death Watch: The Final Hours of Frank Coppola". From Frank Coppola file].
Driven by religious, legal, and ethical convictions, Ingle devoted countless hours to providing myriad methods of support to convicted prisoners and their families. While offering spiritual guidance, he also connected prisoners with defense attorneys who would put sincere effort into achieving justice for the accused, whether it was a death sentence commuted to life in prison or the recognition of evidence proving complete innocence. Though described as soft-spoken and gentle, Ingle faced the public spotlight countless times as he and SCJP supporters spoke before the press, conducted letter and petition campaigns, staged protests on behalf of Death Row prisoners, and generally defended the position of the Southern Coalition. Ingle also published a book in 1990 entitled Last Rights: 13 Fatal Encounters With the State's Justice, which details his experiences supporting Death Row inmates and encourages readers to see the prisoners as human beings who need help. The book was re-released in May of 2008 with a new foreword by M*A*S*H star Mike Farrell as well as the original foreword by William Styron [Death Penalty Information Center. Resources/Books. "Last Rights: 13 Fatal Encounters With the State's Justice". Accessed 8 February 2010 from http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/books].
In more than fifteen years of existence, the Southern Coalition gained several official affiliates through the south, including (but not limited to) the Clearinghouse on Georgia Prisons and Jails, the Florida Clearinghouse on Criminal Justice, and the Alabama Prison Project [Letters from Southern Coalition Board of Directors members to affiliates, February 1990. (Board of Directors file, Series #1 -- Administrative)]. However, the Coalition was active in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Virginia, and Kentucky through the early 1990s. Staff in the affiliate offices served as advocates for prisoners in their particular states and acted as liaisons between inmates and Ingle, who worked out of SCJP headquarters in Tennessee but traveled frequently within the United States to visit prisoners on Death Row. Ingle also made trips to Europe to connect with abolition advocates there.
The Southern Coalition on Jails and Prisons relied heavily on donations for the duration of its existence. Some funding came from private citizens who were contacted by the SCJP's direct mail campaign, or who became aware of specific prisoner's cases and decided to help anti-death penalty advocates. But the biggest support came from organizations whose mission was to distribute money to projects for social change. Some institutions gave money to the SCJP with great frequency, some gave sporadically over the years, and others regularly turned down the Coalition for various reasons. Ingle wrote many grant proposals over the years in order to keep the Southern Coalition running.
In 1990, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (one of the Southern Coalition's regular sources of funding) decided not to renew its grant support of the SCJP. This loss of major financial backing, in combination with burnout on Ingle's part, both contributed to the closing of the Southern Coalition's doors in late November 1990. By that time, Ingle had seen 19 prisoners -- people he considered friends -- face death by execution [Waddle, Ray. "17 years take toll: Ingle leaving his death row ministry". The Tennessean, 25 Nov. 1990. (Board of Directors file, Series #1 -- Administrative)].
When the SCJP ended its journey shortly before January 1, 1991, it left the care of its newsletter (The Southern Coalition Report) in the hands of the Alabama Prison Project. Affiliate offices in Virginia and North Carolina took over the direct mailing list, ensuring that foundations and individuals still interested in supporting criminal justice would be able to do so [Memo of Agreement, Board of Directors -- Southern Coalition for Jails & Prisons. Board of Directors file, Series #1 -- Administrative]. Meanwhile, Ingle accepted a fellowship at Harvard Divinity for the spring of 1991 as a stepping stone for figuring out "where the good Lord [wanted him] to go next" [Waddle, Ray. "17 years take toll: Ingle leaving his death row ministry". The Tennessean, 25 Nov. 1990. (Board of Directors file, Series #1 -- Administrative)].
- Acquisition information:
All items in this manuscript group were donated to the University Libraries, M.E. Grenander Department Special Collections and Archives, by Joseph Ingle.
- Processing information:
Processed in 2009 by Kerry Lynch (Winter 2009/2010).