Decarcerate PA and Fight for Philly held a rally on May 15th in Philadelphia to protest Governor Corbett's planned $685 million prison expansion at the same time as cutting schools and restructuring schools to include zero-tolerance discplinary codes designed to criminalize students and send them to new private prisions, also Corbett has proceeded with plans to offset some of the costs of prison expansion by leasing prison property to petrochemical companies to drill fracking wells.
Members of Fight for Philly, Decarcerate PA, the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, Act UP Philly, Occupy Philly and others began organizing on Chestnut, between Broad and 15th, just before 4 p.m., showing their homemade signs, handing out fliers and wrapping themselves in a red carpet to greet the governor, who had better sense than to walk in the front door.
The groups were there, they said, to protest the governor’s budget cuts and other priorities; things like tax loopholes, mass incarceration and cuts to public education. In all, I’d estimate the crowd grew to about 300 at its largest. After about an hour of chanting and building the crowd, leaders of the organizing groups spoke through a bullhorn, implying they hoped Corbett could hear them from outside. “I believe that 99 percent of these issues could be solved if corporations paid their fair share,” said Sam Jones, an organizer with Fight For Philly. “We are here to let Gov. Corbett know that we will not allow him to balance the budget on the backs of our school children…our most vulnerable citizens…the poor…[and]…working families.”
Just kidding: In response to a visit to Philadelphia tomorrow by Gov. Corbett to address the city's Chamber of Commerce, various groups are planning a "massive" protest of the governor's proposed cuts to education, medical programs for the poor and food stamps, and his proposed elimination of general assistance welfare. (You can read more about the possible implications of those cuts, especially to general welfare, in my colleague Daniel Denvir's article here).
Protesters Criticize New State Prison Construction
(Noah Brode/Essential Public Radio)
Decarcerate PA protested outside the offices of Astorino, a firm designing a Montgomery County prison.
A score of protesters gathered outside the downtown office of the design firm Astorino today, where architects are drafting blueprints for a $315.8 million, two-prison compound in Montgomery County.
Members of the activist group “Decarcerate PA” held aloft a banner reading “No More Prisons” while traffic zipped by along Fort Pitt Boulevard.
“The state of Pennsylvania is spending $685 million to construct two new prisons and expand [nine] existing facilities, at a time when they are slashing funding for health care programs, attacking reproductive rights, slashing money for public schools,” said Bret Grote of Decarcerate PA.
The state’s yearly spending on the Department of Corrections would remain at $1.81 billion under Governor Tom Corbett’s 2012-2013 budget proposal; however, the price of prison construction and expansion falls under the Department of General Services.
The study used a calculation that included various costs tabulated elsewhere in the budget including fringe benefits to employees, underfunded pension and retiree health care plans, spending on inmate health care and education, legal costs and capital projects.
Pennsylvania, according to the study, had one of the largest discrepancies of the 40 states surveyed: 22.6 percent of prison costs are outside the corrections budget, which makes the total spent $2.1 billion. Nationwide, states pay 14 percent more for prisons than is reflected in state budgets—$38.8 billion, or $5.4 billion than officially budgeted.
Protesters gathered outside the Center City offices of Hill International, Inc. in Philadelphia Aug. 17 to demand funding for schools not prisons, and to tell Gov. Tom Corbett to stop building new prisons and Hill to stop profiting from prison construction.
Here’s something you don’t see every day: People at 15th and Ranstead holding on to a giant Gov. Tom Corbett puppet while protesting state funding for new prisons. Around the puppeteers flailing the Corbett-doll’s arms are sign-wielding protesters, who are demanding that social services be the recipient of state money—not the state’s prison system.