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Philadelphia empties House of Correction, another step toward closure

May 31, 2018

Cherri Gregg

KYW News Radio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia's House of Correction is so notorious, it's been called a dungeon. The city announced last month it would close the 91-year-old prison by 2020. As of Wednesday, all inmates have been moved out of House of Correction and into other facilities along State Road, taking the city one step closer to shutting the facility entirely.

"It is now empty and is not housing human beings. That is a good thing," said Reuben Jones, a member of the No Jail 215 Coalition. Jones also helped to launched the Close the Creek campaign, a grassroots effort to shut down the city's oldest prison.

People housed there were usually pre-trial or serving a sentence of less than two years for minor offenses. Inmates often complained about the crumbling structure, poor water quality, sanitation smells and safety problems.

"It's old, it's dilapidated, and it's not fit for human habitation," said Jones. "It's why we had been calling on the city to not only shut it down -- but tear it down as well."

Jones says he and his fellow activists applaud the move by the city.

"Even though we are still pushing them to tear it down, we took a moment to celebrate the fact that it is now empty and it's not housing human beings," he said.

A few years ago, city officials sought millions of dollars to replace the crumbling House of Correction with a new prison, but they abandoned the effort amid protests. In April, Mayor Jim Kenney publicly committed to close the prison by 2020.

Originally built in 1874, the House of Correction was razed then rebuilt using the same materials in 1927.

, the prison had the capacity to house 1,200 people. As of early April, the population at the facility was fewer than 200 people. Jones checked the prison's daily census and noticed each day the number of inmates housed at the facility decreased.Originally

"I was shocked yesterday when I learned that it was completely empty," he says, "I was super happy and I was super excited."

Prison spokesperson Shawn Hawes wrote the following statement via email:

"The Department of Prisons has successfully reassigned all of the inmates who were housed at the House of Correction. Each person from HOC has been assigned to another facility on State Road appropriate to their custody level.

"For now, HOC will remain open to accommodate the administrative staff's office space and for tactical training for uniform staff. The goal remains to close [the] facility fully by 2020.

"This achievement is in line with the goals of the MacArthur Foundation challenge to reduce the City's overall prison population by 34% from the 2015 baseline population of 8,082. We met that goal in early May of this year, and since then the population has continued to decline to its current population of 5,190."

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