Abuse at Philadelphia County Jails must stop now!

Credit: Joe Piette

Dozens of relatives and friends of incarcerated people, recently released former prisoners and community activists held a protest outside a Northeast Philadelphia complex of jail buildings on Oct. 21.

For over a year, incarcerated people at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility and four other prison institutions inside the State Road compound have complained of inhumane conditions such as infrequent showers, dirty linen, bad food, being held in cells for 23 hours per day or longer, hostile guards who refuse to wear masks to protect against COVID transmission and other dangerous conditions. 

At least 14 people have died in city jails this year, the majority of them by homicide, suicide or drug overdose. This rate for Philly is far above the national average. 

Over 4,600 people, most of whom are people of color being held in cells while awaiting trials, suffer from horrible prison conditions made worse by staffing levels that are 520 positions below legal requirements. City administrators have completely failed to adequately address the crisis.

In August, a federal judge filed an order requiring the prisons to ramp up hiring, ease pandemic lockdowns, institute staff COVID-19 testing, and move to resume normal operations. In September, the District Attorney’s office began a grand jury investigation. 

Yet, the medieval-like jail conditions remain abysmal.

Organized by the Human Rights Coalition, Straight Ahead and the Abolitionist Law Center, organizers emphasized these incarcerated people are our family members, friends and neighbors, and they deserve to be treated like human beings. They pledged to continue protesting and ended the demonstration with chants of “We’ll be back!”

— Photos and article by Joe Piette

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