Prison being built in suburban Philadelphia
SKIPPACK — More than eight decades after a state prison was built at Graterford, work has begun on a $400 million replacement for the structure in suburban Montgomery County.
The Philadelphia Inquirer said a contractor has been using cranes to stack prefab concrete cells poured in nearby Telford into cellblocks for the Skippack Township complexes to be called Phoenix I and II, which will open in 2015.
Troy Thompson, spokesman for the state Department of General Services, said the project will be the second-most-expensive facility built by the commonwealth, exceeded only by the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
“This is the city's prison,” state Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said of the state prison closest to Philadelphia, from which more than one-quarter of Pennsylvania prisoners come, although it has only about one-eighth of the state's population.
The prison will have buildings for women and death-row inmates, who are taken to prisons on the other side of the commonwealth. The layout for the general prison population and offenders who spend most of their time in solitary confinement will be easier to monitor, and meeting space for education and counseling will be doubled.
Graterford superintendent Michael Wenerowicz said he was looking forward to more single rooms with air conditioning, which officials said was especially important for those being treated for mental illness, and roofs that don't leak.
But the Graterford structure, built 84 years ago to house thousands of offenders crowding the old Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, will be mothballed rather than demolished, so it could be used again.
The work follows four years of design changes as well as contractor lawsuits and other delays.
“My first instinct was to pull the plug,” said Wetzel, recalling cost-cutting directives from Gov. Tom Corbett. “My assumption was we were not going to build this.”
But Wetzel said his aides convinced him that it could cost less to staff and manage a new prison than the old one.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Environmental groups win in open records case against Corbett
- Mother, maternal grandparents charged in abuse of Mercer County boy
- Stronger laws in play in Mercer County starvation case
- 2 Greene County residents charged with killing 3 in W.Va.
- Pennsylvania liquor licenses are considered ‘better than gold’
- Pennsylvania lawmakers take more free, legal trips
- Pa. pension costs pull from school districts, college students, turnpike