LEWISBURG — The Lewisburg Prison Project has been advocating for inmate rights for 36 years and the board is honoring two of its volunteers.

Angela Trop, a past administrator who now serves as a board member on the nonprofit agency, was recognized at a ceremony Saturday with the first Isabelle and Karl Patten Award.

The late Isabelle Patten was a cofounder of the Lewisburg Prison Project, established in 1973, where she volunteered as a paralegal for many years before her death in February 2006. Her husband, Karl Patten, also served as a paralegal and remains on the board.

“This award is really a celebration of Karl’s life,” Trop said.

A former English teacher, Trop, 40, moved to the area from Indiana in 2000 and was looking for a place to volunteer when she met and became close friends with the Pattens.

She describes Karl as a tireless advocate for the oppressed.

“He is really selfless and inspires me,” said Trop, who is employed with the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit working with adjudicated juveniles in Danville. “He’s been doing community service for 65 years. I have a lot to live up to.”

Said organization legal assistant Elayne Sobel, “I think I speak for the LPP board and staff, but more importantly for hundreds of inmates that received assistance from the Pattens over the past 35 years, that we are indebted to both Isabelle and Karl for their years of dedication and contribution to the Lewisburg Prison Project.”

Trop said the role of the Lewisburg Prison Project is to assist inmates who often have no voice.

“We get letters from all over the country from inmates who want to know, ‘Can I do this?’ Some just want to be heard and validated,” she said.

Members also work closely with inmates at county jails throughout the region.

The prison project filed a class-action suit against Northumberland County last year for failing to provide inmates at the Sunbury facility a safe and secure environment where they are equally treated.

“None of us really wants to sue anybody,” Trop said, adding that the organization exists to aid people who have made poor choices but still have rights.

“These inmates could be my neighbors, my family members,” she said. “They had to be removed because they wronged us, but if you feel blessed, you have to help anyone who is oppressed.”

She’d also like to assist the corrections officers at the U.S. Penitentiary at Lewisburg who expressed concern about the facility being turned into a super-max prison housing the most dangerous inmates.

“I would love to help this union,” Trop said.

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