Pennsylvania is spending $400 million to construct two new prisons at the SCI-Graterford site in Montgomery County after slashing nearly $1 billion in public education funding. The funds are in addition to the $1.8 billion corrections budget signed by Republican Governor Tom Corbett, an increase of $208,000 from last year (capital projects are counted separately).
Today, Decarcerate PA staged a protest outside the Philadelphia office of South Jersey-based Hill International, Inc., a major global construction management firm overseeing the "Phoenix East and Phoenix West" project at Graterford.
"Hill is the company that has been chosen to manage the construction of two new prisons at Graterford," says Dan Bergen, an activist with Decarcerate PA and a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School. "They are currently accepting bids for the prison through the end of the month. Our message is that now is the time to rebuild communities rather than build prisons."
Decarcerate PA is a coalition of activists urging the state to spend money on alternatives to incarceration and education, and includes organizations such as the Teacher Action Group, Institute for Community Justice, Reconstruction Inc., Fight for Lifers, The Pennsylvania Prison Society, and Human Rights Coalition.
According to a company press release, Hill stands to make approximately $2.5 million from the project.
Hill spokesperson John Paolin declined to comment on the protest, but did say they were a small piece of the picture and "didn’t actually swing the hammers."
"What we do is make sure the project comes in on time and on budget."