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Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Leading the Way in Prison Renovations

Wed January 05, 2000 - Northeast Edition
Chris Volker

The amount of money spent on building and renovating prisons is huge. Why? Because the current prison population is growing 13 times faster than that of the general population and has exceeded most facility maximums in every state. In fact, since 1980, the nation’s prison population has tripled, and the United States now claims more than 1.5-million people behind bars in both state and federal prisons, as well as juvenile halls and youth authority complexes. That does not include the 3.5-million people on probation and parole. These numbers have put a stranglehold on the prison system, and have forced nearly all of them to operate at levels far exceeding their mandated maximums.

Currently, state prisons are operating anywhere from 17 to 29 percent over capacity, while federal prisons have climbed to 25 percent above the maximum capacity. According to the U.S. Justice Department, 1995 saw the biggest inmate population growth ever in U.S. history, with more than 89,000 new prisoners in American jails. And with 80 percent of those released from jail returning within one year, the estimated figures jump even higher. These two factors of future crime and current rates well in excess of the norm lead many in government and the private sector to demand the passage of bills for the construction of more prisons.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has closely examined this phenomenon and has taken steps to update several correctional institutions throughout the Keystone State.

More recently, SCI Cambridge Springs, located in Cambridge Springs, PA, has undergone renovations to its 500-cell facility. Already work has been completed to the perimeter fence, building structures, asbestos removal and roofing, as well as life safety code improvements. Renovation has just been completed (November 30, 1999) on Kosciusko Hall, a Cambridge Springs building containing 166 beds.

“The scope of the project at Cambridge Springs involved the demolition of Kosciusko Hall,” said Press Secretary Samantha Elliott, General Services Department, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. “New walls, doors, floors and plumbing have been built. In addition, hardscape and landscape have been enhanced.”

Elliott said that SCI Graterford, located in Delaware County, PA, has experienced recent improvements to its cell blocks including replacement of exterior windows and portions of the actual cell blocks.

Renovations also occurred at another prison, SCI Camp Hill, in which its Main Gate was updated. “This involved new underground electrical duct service and the enhancing of its new security systems around the gate,” Elliott said.

Tri-State Development handled the design and development of Cambridge Springs. Robert Kimball Company and Joseph Callaghan were construction managers for Camp Hill and Graterford respectively.

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