Brad Bumsted's news story “State Corrections boss Wetzel wants fewer prisoners” provides excellent examples of Secretary John Wetzel's prison-reform rhetoric, but it leaves out one crucial fact — rather than shrinking the prison system, the Department of Corrections is spending $400 million to build two new prisons that will house 4,100 people.
Social media effort highlights alternatives to prison expansion
December 26, 2013
Philadelphia, PA -- People all over Pennsylvania believe there are literally hundreds of better ways to invest state resources than spending money to build new prisons. That’s what the grassroots coalition Decarcerate PA hopes to demonstrate through their “100 Days Instead of Prisons” social media campaign. The campaign calls on legislators to cancel the $400 million prison construction underway in Montgomery County and make 2014 a year of no new prisons in Pennsylvania.
The state Department of Corrections is constructing a $400 million, two-prison complex to replace the aging State Correctional Institution at Graterford, but newly released cost analyses fail to show the projected savings that Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration has claimed.
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.