Tuesday, August 4, 2015

More prison inmates at Holmesburg?

Public Safety Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison says the Nutter administration has been exploring the idea of housing hundreds of more inmates at the old Holmesburg Prison.

More prison inmates at Holmesburg?

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Public Safety Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison says the Nutter administration has been exploring the idea of housing hundreds of more inmates at the old Holmesburg Prison.

Closed in 1995, the 110-year-old prison was known for rioting that took place behind its 35-foot-high walls. It was replaced by the Curran Fromhold Correctional Facility.

But during this afternoon's budget hearing about city prison costs, Councilwoman Joan Krajewski asked Gillison about the status of his plan to reopen Holmesburg. She said Gillison visited her Council office in January to discuss the matter. "I gave you a list of reasons why I would oppose it," Krajewski reminded him today.

The answer: While no immediate steps have been taken, Gillison said the prison would be an idea site to locate temporary facilites that could provide much-needed housing for about 600 inmates. The city is on its way to reaching an average daily prison population of 10,000 - with no more room left in its existing jails.

With the temporary facility, "We would not have to worry about lawsuits and triple-celling," Gillison said.

Krajewski made it clear that the neighborhoods in Northeast Philadelphia, which she represents, would not support housing inmates there, especially given the location of a nearby charter school. But Gillison said there's a misconception: Holmesburg Prison has never really closed. Right now, it houses about 100 male inmates and 115 female inmates, Prison Commissioner Louis Giorla said.

"We never really closed it," Gillison said.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer's Chris Hepp, Tricia Nadolny, Julia Terruso, and Claudia Vargas take you inside Philadelphia's City Hall.

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