City won't use Holmesburg to house protesters after all

A day after the city said it would house in Holmesburg Prison protesters arrested during the Democratic National Convention, plans have changed.

"In the event of any arrest, we will first use other jails in the system," Shawn Hawes, spokeswoman for the city's prison system, said Wednesday.

Hawes said the department assessed the available space in the regularly operating jails and determined that at least two other facilities for men have plenty of units: the Detention Center and the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center (PICC). Any women arrested will be held at Riverside Correctional Facility.

Holmesburg has been closed since 1995, but a renovated gymnasium is frequently used in the event of overcrowding. Officials originally intended to place arrested protesters in the gymnasium if necessary.

Thanks to a dipping prison population, that won't be necessary, Hawes said. The prison population has been as high as 10,000 inmates a few summers ago and is currently about 7,500, thanks in part to ongoing changes to decrease the population.

Hawes said that conversations started Wednesday and that officials determined that keeping everyone in the operating jails would be more efficient.

"We'll be able to process people a lot easier, intake procedure is easier, and we won't have to move our resources around," Hawes said.

Both the Detention Center and PICC are medium- to low-custody facilities, meaning they house mostly people accused of less serious offenses.

Police "are not going to arrest people charged with nuisance crimes, so if someone gets here by protest - arrested and actually brought to the jail system - they're going to be charged with the same sorts of things people are in custody for," Hawes said.

jterruso@phillynews.com

215-854-5506

@juliaterruso