Myra Gaskins’ life changed in 1989. Her son, LaFaye Gaskins, had been arrested for murder. Myra still insists her son is innocent, but a jury found him guilty in May 1990 of killing Albert Dodson, a drug dealer. LaFaye is currently serving a life sentence at the State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy in Schuylkill County.
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, a nonprofit corporation housed at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, is looking into her son’s case, Myra said, with the goal of getting him a new trial.
The only way Myra and LaFaye have been able to visit with each other over the last five years is through the Virtual Visitation Program, which allows inmates to communicate with their loved ones through a television, camera and internet hook up — similar to a Skype session.
These visits may soon be interrupted as the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ends the contract with the company that provides these services.
Myra and other families with incarcerated loved ones have been visiting Connection Training Services in North Philadelphia, a multi-funded agency that offers a variety of adult programs dealing with education, mentoring and reentry initiatives. The facility receives about 14 visits a day on average just for virtual visitation, according to Douglas Kissel, CTS’s VP of Development.
Dominique “Peak” Johnson is a North Philadelphia journalist. He is one of the founding editors and writers of the North Philly Metropolis, blogger for The Huffington Post and contributing writer to numerous online publications. Click here to learn more about Peak.