Philadelphia's oldest continually operating jail will close within the next two years, city officials announced Wednesday.
Opened in 1927, the House of Correction on State Road in the city's Holmesburg section will be shuttered by 2020 due to its age and lack of modern security and public safety features, Mayor Jim Kenney and Prisons Commissioner Blanche Carney said in a statement.
Much of the facility is built with original materials from an older jail dating back to the 1800s. Also, officials say the jail was not built to accommodate programming such as education and job training.
“It’s our oldest facility by a lot,” Julie Wertheimer, chief of staff of Philadelphia’s office of Criminal Justice, said. “Its physical layout does not conform to modern practices.”
A decreasing prison population was also cited as a reason for the closure. The total number of inmates stands at 5,436, which officials say is a 20 year low.
The city credits a $3.5 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge with reducing the inmate population.
The grant required city officials to develop programs and policies to cut the jail population by 34 percent over three years. With the system’s current numbers, there is a 32 percent decrease since July 2015.
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“Mass incarceration begins with jails and the local justice systems in which they operate,” said Laurie Garduque, director of justice reform at MacArthur. “The closing of the House of Correction is an example of what can happen when local leaders commit to smart reforms that make their justice systems fairer and more effective, with the aim of protecting the wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities.”
The rate of violent crime is also down, according to the Philadelphia Police Department.
Right now, 178 inmates remain at the House of Correction. All individuals and staff from there will be moved to other jails on State Road, and this could possibly be done sooner than the 2020 closure.