No New Prison for Philly (for Now)

Bobby Henon is icing a bill that would have paved the way for a new jail.

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It’s official: Councilman Bobby Henon’s bill that would have paved the way for a new prison in Philadelphia is dead for the season.

Henon wrote in a letter to Mayor Michael Nutter Wednesday that he would refer the proposal back to a Council panel and schedule hearings on it in the fall.

Henon’s legislation would have allowed the city to spend more than $7 million to buy land in Northeast Philly that could have been used to build a new jail to replace the 1870s-era House of Correction. But after a Council committee approved the bill, lawmakers delayed a final vote on it three times this spring amid pressure from anti-prison advocates who argued that the city should spend its precious dollars on education.

Henon said in his letter to Nutter that replacing the House of Correction was a “a matter of both fiscal necessity and basic human rights.” The old jail lacks AC and several security mechanisms.

“Uninformed and politically motivated critics have used this legislation to conflate, rewrite, distort, distract and lie about the intent of this legislation,” Henon wrote. “A replacement for this outdated and dangerous facility will not siphon money away from our cash-strapped schools; this is not a choice between school desks and prison beds. It is easy to play on public fears and spread misinformation to fuel a culture of inaction. It is much more difficult to make tough decisions.”

Henon also said in his letter to Nutter that he would create a “Philadelphia Prison and Incarceration Reform Working Group” in order to “find common ground on the issues raised over the course of the past several weeks.”

Bobby Henon’s Letter to Michael Nutter