September 30, 2021

Update on the crisis in Philadelphia jails
Conditions inside Philadelphia’s jails remain unsafe and inhumane.

Conditions inside Philadelphia’s jails remain unsafe and inhumane. The violence, lack of supervision, and prolonged confinement that have led to the death of 14 incarcerated people this year continues.

The Prison Society is working to end this crisis.

We continue to monitor conditions inside Philadelphia’s jails and urge officials to address the problems we’ve witnessed. Prison Society staff and volunteers have completed walkthroughs of four of the city’s jail facilities, and have spent hours interviewing people in custody. We have provided written summaries of the conditions we have observed to city and state officials. All of the problems we reported during the summer still exist, from cell blocks that are left unsupervised, to the neglect of medical needs, to the severe restrictions on movement that strain the mental health of people in custody.

Our volunteers continue to work with people in custody who reach out to us for help. In the past two months, Prison Society volunteers have met with and assisted 50 people who sought our help at the Philadelphia jails.

We are speaking out about the crisis in the media and amplifying the voices of incarcerated people and their families.

But nothing will change until officials take decisive action to address this crisis. The prisons’ chronic staff shortage has worsened to the point that Philadelphia is now 480 correctional officers short of its needed staffing complement. The slow pace of court proceedings and the overuse of incarceration has kept the jail population much higher than the prisons can safely handle.

The Prison Society continues to call on the City of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Courts, and all levels of government to significantly reduce the city’s jail population, immediately address the inhumane conditions, and hire enough staff to make the prisons safe.

We ask that you continue to call Philadelphia City Council members and ask them to respond to this humanitarian crisis. You can find the telephone number for the councilperson for your district and council member at large HERE.

Click HERE for more information and a sample script.

The Prison Society calls on all state and county officials to:

  • Expand efforts to safely reduce the number of people in custody;
  • Continue to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to all people in custody and staff in prisons and jails;
  • Implement weekly, rapid testing of all staff that come into contact with people in custody until they are vaccinated;    
  • Require that every county publicly report prison testing results and virus-related deaths in custody;
  • Test and quarantine every new person entering custody; and
  • Eliminate the medical co-pay for accessing health care while in custody.

Sky Blue Heart
If you learned something from this supporter update, pay it forward with a donation. Your support makes our critical work to promote transparency and accountability in Pennsylvania prisons and jails possible.