The Inside-Out family is in deep mourning over the loss of Kay Harris, who passed away on Friday, November 16, 2018, after a brief, sudden illness. Kay was both the midwife and backbone of The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program and has had a profound impact on the program’s evolution.
Since its inception in 1997, Kay was centrally involved in all aspects of Inside-Out, most often on her own time. Over decades, she dedicated herself and her time to the ongoing development and deepening of the program. She is the only person who has been involved in every dimension of Inside-Out — teaching, the Graterford Think Tank, the Temple Advisory Board, the Executive Committee, training co-facilitation, speaking and writing about the program. She has been the enduring spirit of Inside-Out.
Kay was also involved for decades with other issues related to prisons and incarceration, especially with people serving the sentence of life without parole. Besides direct, continued involvement with incarcerated men and women, she also spoke and wrote about these issues both nationally and internationally.
Here is a word portrait of Kay, comprised of some of what people have expressed upon hearing of her passing: Kay “gave new meaning to a person’s dedication to justice;” “I’ll always remember her energy, her laugh, her commitment, her vision;” she was “generous and gentle, witty and wise, persistent and passionate;” “she taught us how to live a good life;” her “spirit shined brightly;” “she was amazing — so clear, self-reflective, focused, and she carried joy and love in the world;” I think of her “brilliance, love of life, enduring decency, care, and passion;” she was “a wise, kind force of nature;” she had a “wonderful blend of passion and groundedness and a whole lot of wisdom — I’m sure that her example will continue to inspire us in the years ahead.”
As one person shared: “Her insights, skills, endurance, humility and calmness were worthy of emulation. Her optimism, grounded in realism and steeped in faith, gave sustenance to many folks. Kay’s kindness and wisdom brought light to atmospheres seemingly hidden by political, cultural and institutional darkness.... Hers was a life filled with possibilities and realities. Let us be reminded that Kay helped change the world and facilitated achievements of sustained wholesome human development. We mourn and cherish her. Kay helped us learn how to love much better.”
It is hard to think of a world without Kay Harris in it. It is ours, now, to carry on her legacy.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program to establish The Kay Harris Inside-Out Educational Fund. To donate, click here and designate your gift as a tribute to Kay.
– Lori Pompa
Click here to read Kay's obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer from December 4, 2018.