We are sad to share the news that, on Thanksgiving morning, one of our Inside-Out instructors, Deborah Leibel, passed away after a long bout with cancer. Deborah attended the training in June 2014, and taught several Inside-Out classes in the Philadelphia jails through The Philadelphia Center, where she was a faculty member from 1990 to 2017.
I remember Deborah as having a somewhat irreverent joie de vie — and she absolutely loved the teaching that she did in the jail. Her son, Oliver, wrote a wonderful eulogy on the online Legacy site, which includes the following reflections:
“Towards the end of her career, my mom began teaching at an inside-out program, where current college students were learning alongside incarcerated women inside of a prison in Philadelphia. The class was on mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline in America, and I like to think of this as the pinnacle of my mom's career because she was not only doing what she loved but she was making a real change in a system so broken. I spent the last couple weeks going through things leftover from her office, and after reading countless postcards, notes, and cards, it's beautiful to know how many people she touched.
“My mom, being from New York, never understood why I was out in ‘the suburbs,’ as she called Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, but nonetheless she supported it and helped me find a way to fight against the prison industrial complex while still remaining connected to parks and public lands. My heart breaks because we found a way to connect these two things and I was so looking forward to working with my mom on a project centered around re-entry and anti-recidivism work in parks. Mom, you gave me a lifetime of lessons and I am ready to get to work.”
Right there is an important part of her legacy.