Department of Prisons Announces Plans to Close the House of Correction by 2020

PHILADELPHIA – Mayor Kenney and Prisons Commissioner Blanche Carney today announced plans to close the House of Correction (HOC) on State Road by 2020.

HOC is the oldest operating jail in the City of Philadelphia, and has been in continuous operation since 1927. The facility requires constant maintenance due to its age and lacks modern security and public safety features. Its closure is possible because the City’s overall incarcerated population has decreased 32 percent since July 2015. The population stands currently at just under 5,500, the lowest it has been in 20 years.

“Reducing our jail population and closing the House of Correction has been among my highest priorities since taking office,” said Mayor Kenney. “Reaching the point where we can shutter this facility once and for all – without needing to build a new prison – is a milestone. It is also a testament to the productive partnership among all our criminal justice partners and to the national support we’ve received from the MacArthur Foundation.”

The declining prison population is due in large part to the City’s collaborative efforts funded by a $3.5 million-dollar grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge. Under the challenge, City officials worked together to develop a data-driven reform plan that included 19 new programs and policies. The goals are to reduce the local jail population by 34 percent over three years, and to reduce the racial, ethnic and economic disparities in the criminal justice system. So far, the City has implemented 16 of the 19 initiatives, which include investment in diversion programs for behavioral health and substance abuse disorders.

“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. We hope this progress inspires leaders in other counties, cities, and states to rethink how jails are used and to join the growing movement of local justice reform across the country.”

“It is important to note while fewer people are incarcerated, the City has seen no increase in the rate of violent crime in this city,” said Police Commissioner Richard Ross. “In fact, since 2015, Part I crimes have decreased about three percent. While much work remains to be done, it is clear that the policies – and our partnerships – are working.”

To date, 199 inmates remain at HOC. Efforts are already underway to move all remaining incarcerated individuals and staff from HOC to other facilities on State Road. While the closure is slated for 2020, it is possible the prison will be fully depopulated sooner than that.

“The depopulation of HOC will give those incarcerated greater access to programs and services that were limited or unavailable at HOC because of the restriction of programming space,” said Prisons Commissioner Blanche Carney. “When HOC is closed, PDP can further advance its application of modern correctional practices, which encourages programs and services that rehabilitate and teach. This will better prepare incarcerated persons for reentry into society.”

Closing the HOC speaks to the partners’ shared vision of investing in alternatives to incarceration over building a new facility. These partners include the Philadelphia Police Department; Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services; the First Judicial District; the District Attorney’s Office; and the Defender Association.

Other key partners include the Office of Criminal Justice, The Criminal Justice Advisory Board, chaired by President Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper; Councilman Curtis Jones who serves as Chair of the Public Safety and Special Committee on Criminal Justice Reform; and the No215Jail Coalition.