Out with the old, as new Phoenix prison dedicated in Collegeville

Prisoners will be transferred from Graterford over six months.

Paul Kurtz
June 01, 2018 - 2:34 pm

COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Pennsylvania correctional officials have formally dedicated the new prison that will replace the Graterford correctional facility. 

At the moment the history and future of corrections sit right next to each other. But the past will soon be going away. Over the next six weeks, officials will be making the transition from Graterford prison to the new state-of-the-art Phoenix correctional facility. 

It’s just a short walk from Graterford to Phoenix, but Major of the Guard Scott Bowman says it’s actually a huge leap to the present-day world.

“Graterford is an old prison built in the 1920s, big brass keys, big brass locks. Here at SCI Phoenix everything works on touch screens and proxy cards so culturally it’s going to be a lot different for us.”

Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said, “Every officer will have GPS on them. So if something happens, and officer gets in trouble, the control room will know exactly where that officer is," Wetzel said. "The camera system is state of the art. If it was looking at us right now, it would be able to read the ingredients on the bottle.”

The sprawling facility is built on 1,600 acres, enough room to house more than 4,000 inmates and accommodate 1,100 full-time employees. The new prison will feature two wings, a first-of-its-kind female transitional unit, a garment and shoe factory, and state-of-the-art security system. Wetzel says better sight lines will also make life safer for the guards. 

Wetzel says staff members will spend the next six weeks putting the finishing touches on the facility and transferring the prison population gradually at a rate of about 500 people per day.