Communities Rally Against Prison Expansion

For Immediate Release: July 17, 2012

Pennsylvanians demand an end to two new prisons in Montgomery County

Skippack Township: Community members from Montgomery County and Philadelphia will rally on Tuesday, July 17, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the intersection of Route 29 and Graterford Road to protest the construction of two new prisons on the grounds of SCI Graterford in Montgomery County. Part of a growing campaign against the controversial prison expansions, the demonstration calls on Governor Corbett cancel the construction while still in its early stages and reinvest the remaining tax dollars in institutions that strengthen communities. 

“Pennsylvania does not need another prison,” said Sarah Small of Decarcerate PA, a statewide coalition of more than 75 organizations opposing prison construction and supporting policies that reduce the number of people in prison. “Other states are finding ways to reduce their prison populations and close prisons. It’s time Pennsylvania caught up to the rest of the country.”

Governor Corbett’s 2012-2013 budget eliminates General Assistance, cuts $309 million from independent living and community services for seniors, and does little to make up for last year’s funding cuts to universities and the $840 million cut to public education. While Pennsylvania’s education is in dire need of increased funding, the proposed new prisons, called SCI Phoenix I and II, will cost Pennsylvania $400 million. The new prisons, which according to the Department of Corrections will replace the current SCI Graterford, will add over 800 new beds to Graterford’s existing capacity. They also include a 100-bed death row and a new women’s unit at a time when the state’s prison population is decreasing.

Demonstrators say that Pennsylvanians throughout the state will feel the impact of SCI Phoenix. In addition to the men and women who will be incarcerated there, Skippack residents face possible  reductions in local property values, increased noise, light, and dust pollution, increased traffic delays, and prison fences less than 700 feet from nearby homes and businesses.

The prison expansion also poses serious environmental concerns. Excavation runoff from SCI Phoenix will collect in a sediment basin within the nesting grounds of numerous bald eagle mates.

The Pennsylvanians rallying Tuesday imagine a different set of spending priorities for their state.

“Of all things, Skippack doesn’t need more prison beds, and it definitely doesn’t need a new death row,” said David Onion. “Prisons don’t make us stronger or safer. Despite the name SCI Phoenix, these new facilities will not lift Pennsylvania from the ashes of Governor Corbett’s broken priorities. ”

###

Decarcerate PA is a coalition of organizations and individuals seeking an end to mass incarceration and the harms it brings our many communities. We demand that PA stop building prisons, reduce the prison population, and reinvest money in our communities.