Pennsylvania’s New Prison to Open a Year Behind Schedule

The 1.06 million-square-foot State Correctional Institution Phoenix in Skippack Township, Pa., will replace the 1920s Graterford complex nearby and serve as the main detention center for Philadelphia-area inmates.
The 1.06 million-square-foot State Correctional Institution Phoenix in Skippack Township, Pa., will replace the 1920s Graterford complex nearby and serve as the main detention center for Philadelphia-area inmates.

SKIPPACK TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Construction on the State Correctional Institution Phoenix in Skippack Township continues and will now open more than a year behind schedule.

The 1.06 million-square-foot facility will replace the 1920s Graterford complex nearby and serve as the main detention center for Philadelphia-area inmates. The project goal is to get the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) into a modern, multi-use correctional facility that will allow the department to continue to carry out its mission and provide a safe and secure facility for the staff and inmates.

The 3,872-bed project features a 100-bed capital case unit; a separate, outside-of-the-perimeter female inmate transitional unit; a change in housing-unit layout that allows for better staff visibility; and a number of security changes and features that ensure the physical-protection systems in place can effectively combine technology.

The original completion date for the project was June 25, 2015. Due to change orders and weather, the project’s completion date was extended 138 days to Nov. 20, 2015. Now, the project is expected to be completed later this fall, according to Troy Thompson, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of General Services (DGS), while The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that it may not open until at least January. The project’s total cost amended is now $349,163,269.61, which means the state will pay that amount, even though the total cost is now about $400 million, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Thompson said that the scheduling issues mainly have to do with the substandard performance of the contractor, Pittsburgh-based Walsh-Heery Joint Venture (WHJV). “The original extended scheduled completion date of November 2015 was not met, and despite repeated attempts to get back on track with the contractor, the project is already a year behind schedule,” Thompson said. “According to the terms and conditions of the agreed upon award contract, the DGS is holding an amount of $35,000 per day in Liquidated Damages from the contractor for every day past the scheduled completion date of Nov. 20, 2015.”

The DGS has been very transparent about the progress of this project, even posting the approved applications for payment from the contractor online to show what work the contractor is billing for, when they are submitting the applications for payment and how much is being paid, Thompson added. The most recent payment is No. 47, with an expected completion date of Oct. 24, 2016. To date $11.865 million in liquidated damages has been withheld.

When the project is finally completed, Thompson said that there will be both challenges and opportunities in the move. The staff at Graterford has spent a good deal of time and effort in informing the inmate population in preparation for the move and trying to prepare for a smooth transition.

“For some of the inmates Graterford has been ‘home’ for decades,” Thompson said. “The institution has offered psychological counseling and pastoral support for those experiencing anxiety in the face of moving. Many of the staff are excited to go into the new facility with state-of-the-art electronics, more efficient design and smaller housing units. DOC has worked to generate excitement about the move and has engaged staff input on various aspects of the development of the new facility.”

%d bloggers like this: