Meet the Philadelphia inmates making the pope’s chair

This is pretty great, via Philly.com:

Evan Davis sanded the back of a large walnut throne, scrubbing in the direction of the grain, to smooth the seat Pope Francis will sit on when he visits next month.

In a carpentry shop at the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center (PICC), Davis and about a dozen other inmates have been working for four weeks on the chair, nearly six feet high.

“At first I thought it was a little strange, honestly, like, why’s he coming to a prison?” Davis, 26, of West Philadelphia, said. “But then you realize, he’s coming to the prison basically to show people everybody in jail is not a criminal. And we need hope now just as much as anybody.”

Davis, the father of two young girls, has been in the prison system 21/2 years. He’s awaiting a retrial on third-degree murder charges after a mistrial in March, he said.

On Monday, he joined other inmates working in the PHILACOR program, and discussed preparations for Francis’ visit to the neighboring Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility – named in honor of Warden Patrick N. Curran and Deputy Warden Robert F. Fromhold, who were murdered at Holmesburg Prison in 1973. A retired corrections officer at Curran-Fromhold said in an interview Monday he hoped the pope also makes time to meet with families of murder victims.

PHILACOR is one of several vocational programs to help inmates learn skills that can be transferred to the community after their release. Five inmates carved the chair, and several others are working on upholstery and decoration.

Many of the workers will be in the audience of 100 inmates and their families when Francis visits Curran-Fromhold on Sept. 27, the morning of the day of the afternoon papal Mass

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