Many Pennsylvanians are asking why - in the wake of painful cuts to essential services - the Corbett Administration has stubbornly moved forward with spending $400 million to build two new prisons in Montgomery County.
Schools have been shuttered and scores of teachers laid off, but work on State Correctional Institutions Phoenix I and II has continued unabated.
We believe the decision to move forward with this construction was based on misinformation and lies told to the legislature by the Department of Corrections.
In response to our recent call for state prisons chief John Wetzel to pull the plug on the $400 million construction of two new prisons in Montgomery County, a Corrections Department spokeswoman contended that new prisons would be less expensive and more efficient to operate than Graterford ("Group protests new Skippack prison," Nov. 7). Yet Wetzel's own cost-benefit study demonstrates no significant difference between Graterford's operating costs and those of two new facilities.
MECHANICSBURG As Pennsylvania's Department of Corrections chief was in Washington talking about ways to reduce the number of inmates, a grassroots group from the Philadelphia area Wednesday was at DOC headquarters protesting the $400 million construction of two prison complexes in Montgomery County.
"The most important thing is to cancel the construction at Graterford," said Ashley Henderson of Decarcerate PA, saying the money would be better spent funding education and health care.
Mechanicsburg, PA - State leaders responsible for Pennsylvania’s surging prison expansion costs are meeting with growing resistance. About twenty protesters appeared unannounced at the Department of Corrections headquarters in Mechanicsburg today with a gigantic orange electrical plug. Members of Decarcerate PA, a grassroots coalition working to end mass incarceration in Pennsylvania, called for an immediate halt to the $400 million prison construction project in Montgomery County, saying it was time for Corrections Secretary John Wetzel to “pull the plug” on this expensive plan.
Three days into a 10-day, 113-mile march across Pennsylvania, Fatimah Islam-Hernandez had a realization: "I have learned that when I want to have a powerful breakthrough in my life, I have to create a space, a clearing, so that my stand can be seen," wrote Islam-Hernandez. "No matter how unreasonable, no matter what fears I have."
Islam-Hernandez is an educator and parent in Philadelphia whose partner is one of the 51,370 people locked inside Pennsylvania's sprawling state prison system. Her reflection came as part of the "March for a People's Budget- Stop Prison Expansion Now" in Pennsylvania. The March, which left Philadelphia on May 25 and ended with a major rally in Harrisburg on June 3, is a sign of how new movements against imprisonment and punishment have been creating a new clearing by targeting the state budgeting process with creative modes of direct action.
July 2, 2013 For Immediate ReleaseAttention: News Desk
Harrisburg, PA – Despite statewide opposition, on Sunday, June 30, the Pennsylvania General Assembly approved a budget for FY2013-2014 that provides a $75 million budget increase for the Department of Corrections (DOC). Despite massive protests and hundreds of calls, postcards, and emails from constituents in districts across Pennsylvania, legislators inexplicably gave the state prison system an even larger budget increase than Governor Corbett initially requested.
This expansive increase flies in the face of efforts by grassroots groups like Decarcerate PA, who recently marched from Philadelphia to Harrisburg to demand that the legislature vote no on an increased prison budget, cancel ongoing prison expansion projects, and invest in creating strong communities instead.
With what Pennsylvania’s spending on new prisons, our school-funding crisis could be resolved.
Posted: Thu, Jun. 27, 2013, 12:00 AM
Over the past several weeks, as teachers and students have protested in the streets over the devastating layoffs of 3,859 Philadelphia public-school employees, workers at a sprawling construction site 30 miles to the north have been making orderly progress. Their work site? The future state prisons, Phoenix I and II, that is planned to replace Montgomery County’s State Correctional Institution at Graterford, at a $400 million price tag.
At a time when Philly schools are facing a $304 million budget gap, critics say the construction reflects backward priorities — particularly on the part of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who has cut nearly $1 billion from public-school funding. That sentiment has spread in recent weeks, going viral on Facebook and prompting a widely criticized performance by Mayor Michael Nutter on MSNBC.
ON SATURDAY, May 25, 45 people set off on foot from the steps of Philadelphia's Art Museum on a 113-mile mission to build a different future for Pennsylvania. Over the next 10 days, members of Decarcerate PA and ally organizations marched from Philadelphia to Harrisburg to demand "a people's budget, not a prison budget."
This diverse group of marchers - students, teachers, parents, organizers, and men and women who have spent decades in prison - demanded that Gov. Corbett and the state Legislature cancel the unnecessary $400 million prison-construction project in Montgomery County and invest those resources into fully funding public education, maintaining much-needed social services and helping people across the state access quality, affordable health care.
I followed up my interview with Sesame Street with an interview with Malissa Gamble, a Philadelphia woman who was formerly incarcerated and separated from her children. Malissa is a member of Decarcerate PA and the founder of The Time is Now to Make a Change.