Will “Papal Intervention” Help Reduce Philadelphia’s Prison Population?


When Pope Francis tours Philadelphia's Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (CFCF) this fall, he'll find a prison system that has been sued over its crammed conditions almost non-stop for the past 45 years, says Philadelphia Magazine. A judge ordered the city to build CFCF in the 1990s to alleviate overcrowding. The city’s prison system houses nearly 8,200 inmates, 1,700 more than it was built to hold. At CFCF, 400 to 500 prisoners live in “triple cells,” which are jam-packed, three-man cells that are intended to hold only one or two people. Will city officials allow the Pope to see the prison’s lackluster conditions? Mark McDonald, spokesman for Mayor Michael Nutter, says, “There are no plans to change the ‘setup’ at the prison. The Pope will see the facility as it is. He will visit with a group of inmates and also speak to a group of staffers.”

Throughout Nutter’s tenure, the city has taken steps to reduce the number of inmates in the city’s jails, and at times, has been successful. In early 2011, the population fell to 7,700, a recent low. Under Nutter, it has never reached that magic number of 6,500 that is the maximum number of inmates that the system was constructed to hold. David Rudovsky, who has sued the city over prison overcrowding, says, “Litigation has certainly been helpful in controlling the population, even though it continues to be far too high. Perhaps papal intervention will cause the city even more concern and lead to a responsible reduction in the population.”

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