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Philadelphia Budget Includes Funds For Possible New Prison

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Mayor Nutter has begun a process that could lead to the first new prison in Philadelphia in more than a decade, whether it actually gets built, is a question that will fall to the next mayor.

Mayor Nutter's new capital budget sets aside nearly 8 million dollars to purchase land in the Northeast for the eventual construction of a new prison.

Prisons Commissioner Louis Giorla says it would replace the ancient House of Corrections.

"Our oldest facility, the House of Correction, opened in 1874." Says Giorla, "It was substantially renovated in 1929 and not since. It requires a number of capital improvements, and it's difficult to maintain, and it does not support correctional practice today. We have to replace it."

Giorla says the money allocated by the mayor would get the process started.

"That'll enable us to select adjacent property, or property on our reservation, that will be suitable for the construction of a replacement jail. And thereafter, once we can design and build a new facility, we can vacate the House of Correction and demolish it."

A new prison would cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and paying for that, even with state and federal help, would be a chore left to whoever becomes mayor next year.

Giorla hopes the next Administration continues the effort to close the House of Corrections, which houses about 1,500 inmates.

"It's antiquated and needs to be replaced. It'll improve the conditions of confinement for our inmates. It'll improve working conditions for our staff and it will make the building more efficient. Right now, it's an energy hog, too."

Giorla said the administration is currently in negotiations with owners of some commercial properties near the House of Corrections, which is near I-95 in the city's Mayfair sections.

Giorla said the last new prison, built by the city, was the Riverside Correctional Facility for female inmates, which opened in 2004.

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