POPE FRANCIS is bringing his messages of justice to the United States and this area in particular. His Holiness' opposition to the death penalty and life sentences without parole is a welcome addition to the ongoing debate about our criminal-justice system. The growing system we call justice encompasses mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. It affects our communities, our tax dollars and our families - the central focus for the pope during his visit to Philadelphia.

The Pennsylvania Prison Society is in a unique position to discuss criminal justice. Founded in 1787, our mission remains the same, "To advocate for a humane, just and restorative correctional system, and to promote a rational approach to criminal-justice issues."

There were 200 prisoners in the late 1700s and now, nationwide, more than 2.2 million men and women are incarcerated, nearly 100,000 in Pennsylvania alone.

When a loved one goes to prison, the family does time, too. That impact can be felt economically, socially, psychologically or individually. There is loss of income, diminished self-esteem, grief and blame; but this is compounded by the reality of incarceration - there are still bills to pay, children to take to school, groceries to buy and doctors' visits to schedule.

Children, who may not understand the circumstances, suddenly lose their loved one, change schools and their main support. There are at least 2 million children across the United States with an incarcerated parent. We need to bring a new focus to the impact on families. Addressing barriers to employment and education and housing for returning citizens will affect their families in many ways. Pope Francis recognizes the intersection of justice and family. That is why his visit is so important.

Ann Schwartzman

Executive director, Pa. Prison Society

Angus Love

Executive director,

Pa. Institutional Law Project

Papal gridlock gripe

So I booked a flight from Philadelphia to Florida well before anyone was predicting papal gridlock. As we all know by now, the Ben Franklin Bridge will be closed all weekend. And the other bridges may have extensive delays. For those of us who are elderly and disabled, it is not really an option to hold our bladders for five hours.

The airport is saying it has no specific information regarding highway access. The airline is saying it is waiting for a specific traffic advisory. New Jersey is saying that the governor has issued a state of emergency, and that should suffice the airline as a traffic advisory. The airline is saying I should plan an alternate route . . . like what? Go to Newark Airport instead? The airline said if the Department of Transportation issues a formal traffic advisory it will be happy to refund nonrefundable tickets. But the unspoken insinuation is, Hey, lady, that's what refundable tickets are for.

The papal visit shouldn't be causing limited-income, disabled folks a financial or physical hardship even if we are from New Jersey.

In the olden days, when the pope visited a village, he would toss coins out to the populace. Perhaps this was just as much charity as the recognition that his passing through was a great inconvenience and a hardship for some.

Deborah Kaplan

Cherry Hill