Graterford Prison has been a part of the Skippack Township landscape for nearly a century. And with the ongoing delays that have plagued construction of a new state prison on the same grounds it is plausible to believe it may be 2029 before the new facility will be ready for prisoners.
(However) Phoenix, Pennsylvania’s newest, most expensive state correctional institution, is scheduled to open by the end of June. But after more than two years of construction delays — with disputed penalty payments owed by contractors mounting at $35,000 a day — the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections isn’t waiting for the 15 concrete cellblock buildings of the new one million-square-foot prison in Skippack Township to be ready before emptying parts of the aging Graterford prison next door, writes Joseph DiStefano for philly.com.
Pennsylvania’s prison population rose sharply in the 2000s and peaked at above 50,000 in the early 2010s, but has fallen in recent years. Despite the drop in demand, Wetzel says, his department went ahead with the construction of Phoenix anyway, in hopes it can get the per-inmate cost down to less than the $90s a day it spends at its most efficient prisons, from more than $120 a day at Graterford and other older facilities. The state’s prison budget is around $2.4 billion a year, more than it spends on anything except public schools, health and human services.
The state is owed about $27 million in “liquidated damages” for the delays by contractor Walsh/Heery Joint Venture of Pittsburgh — a joint venture by the Walsh construction group of Chicago and the Heery group from Atlanta. The total goes up every day the prison isn’t completed.
Walsh/Heery claims the delays are not their fault, pointing to a project management firm out of Philadelphia for the delays.
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