On Aug. 6, the prison population hit 9,123, an all-time high that is more than double the average of 4,000 inmates held in the late 1980s.
It also exceeds by about 1,600 the number of inmates the city's six detention centers were designed to hold.
If you think you're hot and irritable on these sweltering summer days, imagine being held three to a cell for 23 hours a day, with no air conditioning. City Solicitor Romulo Diaz once again says the city is taking various measures. Back in March, Diaz told the Prison Society he was concerned about summer 2007: "We're trying to reasonably address expected conditions," he told us then. Now he says Philadelphia should consider building another prison.
But the Inquirer article points to other solutions, quoting scholars from the Vera Institute, as well as Ralph Taylor, from Temple University.
[Taylor] said more focus must be put on the after care of inmates so they don't become repeat inhabitants of city prisons.
"The real trick is to get people to think of post-prison care as part of their public-safety dollars," Taylor said.
That money should go to preventing recidivism, not building another prison, Taylor said.
For the full text of Robert Moran's Inquirer article, click here.
Statewide in Pennsylvania, it's heartening to know there's real awareness that this problem can no longer be ignored. Gov. Ed Rendell has released details of an expansive package to reduce overcrowding in state and county facilities, with a focus on finding a new way to deal with nonviolent offenders.
From Sarina Rosenberg's article in Sunday's Inquirer:
Aspects of the governor's package aim to cut prison costs by streamlining prisoner transportation, paperwork and parole administration. ...
The proposal also would transfer some inmates serving sentences between two and five years from county to state prisons. That change could add about 2,500 inmates - at least 700 from Philadelphia alone - to the approxmately 45,600 in state prisons, according to the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania. ...
The administration said the state system, though overbooked, could absorb the transfers with the early-release programs in place: The changes are expected to open up hundreds of state-prison beds, and save dollars, in coming years.
It's unclear when the consideration of Rendell's proposal will actually happen, but it's sure to generate plenty of press and controversy when it does, primarily due to the relentless legislator worry about being "tough on crime" -- despite the fact that correctional change resulting from that philosophy has not ensured public safety.
This version of the proposal comes after a lot of negotiation. Again, from the Inquirer:
Earlier versions of the legislation ... would have extended the option to current prisoners. But district attorneys across the state fought to keep the program limited to nonviolent offenders entering the state system after the legislation's approval.
The district attorneys were concerned about retroactively changing sentences, Hart said.
County judges can release some prisoners early for good behavior, but that practice is not tied to any formal rehabilitation program and does not apply to state inmates, many of whom have committed more serious crimes.
Although the district attorneys have signed off on it, the early-release provision could face fierce opposition from lawmakers concerned that such a policy might appear soft on crime.
For the full text of Sarina Rosenberg's article, go here.
[For more on the photographer, Macwagen, click here.]