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Man who spent 43 years in prison to speak to Newtown Quakers


Earl Rice, who spent 43 years in prison, will speak at 9:45 a.m. Sunday, March 26, at the Newtown Quaker Meetinghouse, 219 Court St.

Following the presentation, there will be worship in the manner of Friends at 11 a.m., with people speaking out of the silence as they are moved to do so.

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Shortly after his release from maximum security at Graterford in 2017, Rice told his story to members of Newtown Meeting. Now free for six years, he is returning to talk of his challenges in adjusting to life on the outside.

Late one night in West Chester in 1973, Earl Rice, then 17, snatched a purse from a 61-year-old woman. A few days later, hearing that the police were looking for him, he walked to the station and fully confessed to the robbery.

At that time, he learned that the woman had died from injuries from her fall and that he would be charged with homicide. He was convicted, sentenced to “life without parole,” and spent the next 43 years in prison.

Because of his age at the time of the crime, he has been released in the wake of the Supreme Court decision, Montgomery v. Alabama, which in 2012 declared mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Rice earned his diploma, and trained as a plumber and a butcher.

He volunteered to speak to at-risk youth with the Police Athletic League, and helped Drexel University students make a film urging kids to stay on track. And over a decade, hundreds of students from Bucks County Community College met Rice for small group discussions in their visits to Graterford.

In 1992, Rice was one of three inmates who physically stopped a violent group of prisoners from brutally beating four guards. He took classes in refrigeration and cared for dying inmates in the prison hospice.

Quakers have historically been pioneering activists regarding prison reform, mass incarceration and capital punishment and the public is invited to join them and hear Rice’s powerful story.

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