As early as 1787, Benjamin Franklin understood the need for reform of the criminal justice system. With other Philadelphians he helped create the Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons (now the Pennsylvania Prison Society), the oldest organization in the country dedicated to sensible and humane criminal justice.

Honoring The Marshall Project and its Editor-in-Chief, Bill Keller




9-11 AM: Panel discussion on reforming America’s criminal justice system with Sean Kelley (moderator), Bruce Western,Tyrone Werts, Secretary Wetzel, and Marie Gottschalk. Bios included below. (Free)

Benjamin Franklin Hall
American Philosophical Society
427 Chestnut Street


Moderator: Sean Kelley, Director of Public Programming and the Senior Vice President at Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP)

Panelists: Bruce Western, professor of Sociology and co-director of the Justice Lab at Columbia University.

Tyrone Werts, Think Tank Coordinator for Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program

Marie Gottschalk , professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, specializing in the politics of mass imprisonment in the United States

John Wetzel is the Secretary of Corrections for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

11:15 AM-12 PM: Public Procession to Franklin’s Grave (Free)

American Philosophical Society to the Christ Church Burial Ground
5th and Arch Streets

12-1:45 PM: Luncheon and Presentation of Franklin Founder Award (Registration required.) Keynote address by Bill Keller: “The Guilty Project: A few lessons from reporting on our dysfunctional criminal justice system.” Presentation of the 2019 Franklin Founder Award.

Museum of the American Revolution
101 S. 3rd Street, Philadelphia

Honoree Bio:

Founded in 2014, The Marshall Project is a non-profit, online, national news organization providing comprehensive coverage of America’s criminal justice system--exposing the system’s failings, inefficiencies, and injustices, and drawing attention to those who are struggling to make it better--and to provide a forum for disclosure and debate and raise the public’s sense of urgency about the need for criminal justice reform. The organization, named in honor of Thurgood Marshall, civil rights activist and first African-American justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, has won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in 2016.


Bill Keller is the editor-in-chief of The Marshall Project. Keller worked for the New York Times from 1984-2014, and later as Executive Editor.

Panelist Bios:


Bruce Western is Professor of Sociology and co-director of the Justice Lab at Columbia University. His research examines trends in American economic inequality and the growth of the U.S. penal population. He is the author of Punishment and Inequality in America (2007) and served as Vice-Chair of a consensus panel of the National Academy of Sciences on the causes and consequences of high rates of incarceration in the United States. His new book is called Homeward: Life in the Year After Prison (2018). Western, formerly at Harvard University, is a Guggenheim Fellow, a Radcliffe Fellow, and an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Science and the National Academies of Science.


Tyrone Werts, a 2013 Soros Justice Fellow, is the International Think Tank Coordinator for Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, an education program that brings traditional college students and incarcerated persons together in courses and dialogue to explore and learn about issues of crime and justice. Prior to his work with Inside-Out, Werts served nearly 37 years of a life sentence in Pennsylvania’s Graterford prison. On December 30, 2010, Werts’ life sentence was commuted by former Governor Ed Rendell. Werts, who earned his Bachelor of Arts at Villanova University while incarceration, is committed to working with communities—both inside and outside of prison—to reduce crime and violence.


Marie Gottschalk is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, specializing in the politics of mass imprisonment in the United States. A former editor and journalist, she was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences National Task Force on Mass Incarceration. She is author of The Prison and the Gallows: The Politics of Mass Incarceration in America, and more recently, Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics. Gottschalk’s work on mass incarceration has been cited widely, including most recently in a Supreme Court decision. She was recently featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary film, 13th.


John Wetzel widely recognized as one of the thought leaders in corrections today, is the Secretary of Corrections for the PA Department of Corrections and was appointed in 2011 by Governor Tom Corbett and reappointed by Governor Tom Wolf in 2015. During his tenure, the department saw an elimination of a 24-year average growth of 1,500 inmates per year, ushering in the first population reduction in Pennsylvania in over four decades. Additionally, he oversaw the restructuring of the community corrections system, the mental health system and a re-engineering of internal processes to yield a more efficient system of program delivery. With more than 29 years of experience in the corrections field, he has been selected as chair of the Council of State Government's Justice Center's Executive Board and Vice President of ASCA. He is a member of Harvard's Executive Session on Community Corrections.

Sean Kelley is the Director of Public Programming and the Senior Vice President at Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP), a former American prison in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that is now open to the public as a museum. Kelley was the institution's first full-time employee in 1995, and has been the creative force behind all aspects of the public programming, including tours, exhibits and special events. He also supervises the program staff, exhibit design and installation, and the museum store. He is attentive to the complexity of depicting the prison's past, and encourages conversation around historic and contemporary topics such as prison brutality, rates of incarceration, stigmatization of incarcerated populations, and the questions and practices of historic preservation.