Prison bill on hold until September
City Council has tabled the discussion about buying $7.2 million waterfront land for a new prison until legislators reconvene in September.
Councilman Bobby Henon, the sponsor of the bill that would allow the city to negotiate purchase of 7777 State Rd. in Northeast Philadelphia, cited backlash from “uninformed and politically motivated” critics as the primary cause of the delay.
“We can not continue to confuse the public by conflating school desks and prison beds,” Henon said in his Council address on Thursday. “I’ve listened to a member of this body do that, and it needs to stop. It’s reckless and it’s wrong.”
The member in question is Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., who has rallied support for rebuilding the school district before the city rebuilds a new prison. Jones supports replacing the crumbling 140-year-old House of Corrections, but criticizes the lack of a cohesive plan.
“I would encourage humanity for the residents at the House of Corrections. But there are many ways to Rome…If the dialogue is sincere, I’ll be the first to sign up,” Jones said.
The Inquirer’s Tricia Nadolny reports that Jones isn’t the one of Henon’s colleagues weighing in about the prison, though. Councilwoman Cindy Bass told Henon last week that a vote now would be premature, and that the bill should sit longer.
Despite the bill’s withdrawal, Council still heard testimony from citizens. Many expressed their support for eventually building a new prison, but not on valuable waterfront property in an area with 11 family neighborhoods and underperforming schools.