For Immediate Release: April 25, 2018
Reuben Jones, 267-414-4764
Monica Novoa, 917-971-0329
Philadelphia Community Leaders Harmed by Mass Criminalization Hold #CLOSEthecreek Campaign Rally at City Hall
MESSAGE TO MAYOR KENNEY: #CLOSEthecreek FOR GOOD, AND MEET FULL CAMPAIGN DEMANDS
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania –Wednesday, April 25, 2018–The #CLOSEthecreek campaign, led by JustLeadershipUSA, held a rally and press conference this morning at the Octavius Catto “A Quest for Parity” Monument at Philadelphia City Hall. In addition to the press conference and rally, campaign leaders delivered a letter with demands to Mayor Jim Kenney, calling on Philadelphia to #CLOSEthecreek for good; cut the local prison population in half to no more than 3,000 people; end electronic monitoring; and reinvest savings in locally-run, community-based services for returning community members.
#CLOSEthecreek campaign partners include: Healing Communities USA, Juntos, the Recovery Christian Center Urban Community Development Corporation, ACLU of Pennsylvania, and the #No215Jail Coalition, which is made up of organizations including: the Institute for Community Justice, Youth Art & Self-empowerment Project, Decarcerate PA, Frontline Dads, The Center for Returning Citizens, Philadelphia Student Union, X-Offenders for Community Empowerment, the Human Rights Coalition, Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild (POWER), and the Media Mobilizing Project.
Mayor Kenney has announced that the Creek, formally the House of Correction, will be closed in two years. However, the local prison population is at an all-time low indicating that it can be closed immediately. After the Mayor’s announcement, Philadelphia Prisons Commissioner Blanche Carney clarified that the House of Correction will remain open and well-maintained to serve as flex space and provide overflow capacity if the local prison population rises. Thus, the Mayor’s announcement rings hollow. The #CLOSEthecreek campaign and directly impacted communities demand that the Creek is closed for good.
Philadelphia incarcerates people at a rate more than TWICE the national average, disproportionately impacting Black people and Latinos. Shameful local policies, including the unconstitutional use of probation detainers, have created a crisis that directly impacted people are eager to solve. Originally built in 1874 – and rebuilt in 1927 with the same materials – the temperatures at the House of Correction get hotter than 100 degrees in the summer because the facility has no air conditioning. Winters at The Creek are brutal because of an inadequate heating system. Ceilings are cracking, pipes are leaking, and classrooms and medical facilities are lacking.
Campaign members are driving home the message that the Creek is a human rights disaster and it cannot be declared closed until it’s really closed. Campaign demands to address decarceration, which is a racial justice imperative, must also be met.
“Our communities want to see the Creek closed and demolished or rendered completely unusable. Keeping the Creek open for possible use is not the answer. We are alarmed that rather than plan for decarceration, the City is planning for a future of mass incarceration. We will organize and hold the Mayor and other elected officials accountable to all of our demands and ensure that the voices and experiences of directly impacted Philadelphians lead this process.” — Reuben Jones, JustLeadershipUSA, #CLOSEthecreek Campaign Coordinator
“Three years ago, city officials insisted that the only way to close the House of Correction was to build a new, larger jail with capacity to lock up even more people. But people from all over the city rejected a new jail and demanded decarceration and community reinvestment. We’re glad the city has finally recognized that it can close HOC without building a new jail, but we challenge the city to go further. Thousands of our friends and neighbors still spend months – even years – behind bars simply because they cannot afford to post bail or because they are being held on unjust and illegal detainers. I spent eighteen months at the House of Correction when I was 16, for a crime that I didn’t commit – all because I couldn’t pay a $2000 bail. If Philadelphia ends cash bail and stops lodging detainers for people on parole and probation, we can easily cut the city’s jail population in half.” — Josh Glenn of the #No215Jail Coalition
“The Creek suffers from the 3 D’s – it is degrading, dehumanizing, and disrespectful.”
— Chavelle Carter, #CLOSEthecreek campaign member
“Philadelphia has made progress but hasn’t done enough to end mass incarceration. The House of Correction can be closed, not just emptied, by ending cash bail and by prohibiting automatic detainers for probation violations. People on probation are too often sent back to jail without due process and for minor violations, and they are then held there for months on detainers. That practice needs to end.” — Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.
“We have heard the pronouncements in the past from the Mayor’s office … in his campaign he spoke of how his new Administration would benefit returning citizens; that never happened … he broke his promise on stop-and-frisk. We listened to him when he talked about how the sugar tax would benefit the city, but it has been onerous on the finances of poor Black and brown Philadelphia. The revitalization of the parks in Philadelphia was supposed to create neighborhood employment opportunities … but it turned to solely Union Labor … now we hear the Mayor say that the Creek will close in two years, yet they wanted it to remain in a maintenance state so they can use it for a future possibility. From past experience we totally disregard the Mayor’s promises and demand that the 178 remaining prisoners be transferred, that the Creek be closed and torn to the ground.” #CLOSEthecreek. — Jondhi Harrell, Executive Director, TCRC
“There is too much talk about reforming the City of Philadelphia’s criminal justice system and not enough action leading to lasting system reform that improves the quality of life for those negatively impacted by mass incarceration. No human being should ever be housed in the House of Corrections again. It is past time to #CLOSEthecreek! The Creek must be closed now and closed forever.” — Bill Cobb, Deputy Director, ACLU Smart Justice Campaign
“I work with men and women returning home to Philadelphia every day of the week and they have no idea what barriers they are about to face. Those on probation and parole face the challenges of affordable housing, education, employment with a sustainable wage and career pathway, just to name a few. Probation and parole often restricts men and women from accepting employment, limits housing opportunities and serves to limit their ability to return to their local communities. It’s time we begin to focus on providing job skill training, education, and resources for housing, addiction issues and support services, and less on restricting someone to their home 24-7.”
— Jeffrey Abramowitz, JD, President/Owner, National Workforce Opportunity Network, LLC
The #CLOSEthecreek campaign is led by JustLeadershipUSA under the direction of people impacted by mass criminalization and in partnership with local organizations that have built the decarceration movement in Philadelphia over decades of successful advocacy.
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