ALLENTOWN, Pa. — At the Cedar Beach pool, kids stay cool.

But outside the parking lot, community action group Lehigh Valley Stands Up is talking about a hot topic that could change Allentown’s city charter.

“We need 17,000 signatures to get a ballot proposal that would eliminate solitary confinement in Lehigh County Jail,” said Ashleigh Strange of Lehigh Valley Stands Up.

If they got all those signatures, Allentown voters would finally decide the issue.

Outside the Union Boulevard group’s headquarters, a fake solitary confinement cell is set up to give people a sense of what being locked down for 23 hours a day might be like.

Lehigh Valley Stands Up is organizing a team of volunteers to get signatures from registered voters by Aug. 9.

Among the volunteers is Sergio Hyland, who spent 22 years in prison, five of them in solitary confinement.

“It’s bad for society because you send human beings into a cage and break them mentally, emotionally and often physically, and then you have no choice but to release them back into society without treatment, without resources,” Hyland said.

We contacted the Lehigh County Jail to get their opinion on the matter. We told officials we wanted to know how many people were currently in solitary confinement, for how long, and what the parameters were for ending up there.

We haven’t had a response.

PA Stands Up says it organizes petition drives for ballot initiatives in Lehigh and Lackawanna counties because that’s where it has offices.

Last year, voters in Allegheny County passed a similar measure.


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