Pennsylvania Plans $860 Million Multi-Site Prison Overhaul

GRATERFORD, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections plans to construct four new facilities and four new housing units at existing facilities as part of an $862 million prison system overhaul to alleviate inmate overcrowding.

The largest of the projects will replace the 80-year-old State Correctional Institution at Graterford in Montgomery County, which is labor intensive and expensive to operate, says Susan Bensinger, deputy press secretary for the Department of Corrections. The Graterford project includes two new correctional facilities with a combined capacity of 4,100 beds for medium- and maximum-security inmates.

Once the replacement facilities are completed, the existing Graterford prison will be vacated. The existing 3,400-bed prison — the state’s largest facility — would cost more than $60 million to operate during the next decade, while the new $400 million prison is expected to pay for itself in operational savings in 20 years, according to estimates.

The new construction and expansion projects will add approximately 9,000 new beds to the prison system, which houses more than 50,000 inmates at state and local facilities.

“The new beds this facility offers are necessary as the population of our prison system has grown by 21 percent over the past six years from 37,995 in 2001 to more than 49,300 today,” says Jeffrey Beard, DOC secretary. “Looking down the road, we expect an average growth rate of 4 percent each year through 2012.”

Two new 2,000-bed facilities are also planned for German Township and Rockview. A 178-bed housing unit is planned for the State Correctional Institution Forest in Marienville, and 230-bed housing units are also planned for the SCIs at Pine Grove Coal Township and Cambridge Springs.

Officials expect to issue contract awards for the majority of the facilities this summer.

The expected $862 million cost of the prison projects will be funded through a 2008 state budget allocation, officials say.

“We’re approaching [these projects] in a cost-effective manner that will secure the greatest value for the state’s taxpayers, while ensuring the completed facilities are efficient and yield long-term savings to the state,” says DGS Secretary James Creedon.

Hill International will provide construction management services for the proposed facility at Graterford and Gilbane Inc. will provide construction management services for the $200 million Rockview prison. Both projects are expected to take three years to complete.

Turner Construction will provide construction management services for the four housing unit additions, which are expected to total $68.6 million and be ready for occupancy two years after the contract awards.

The seven projects will be designed for LEED certification as mandated under Pennsylvania law and constructed using the design-build delivery method to fast-track the construction process.

“The Department of General Services is responsible for an annual portfolio of $3 billion in construction projects,” says Ed Myslewicz, Department of General Services spokesman. “We are aggressively tackling the concept of LEED certification.”

Energy efficiency will drive the design and construction of new facilities, which could incorporate geothermal heating measures in addition to daylighting and efficient building systems.

The state’s implementation of LEED standards in construction projects has yielded an 18 percent reduction in energy costs since 2003, saving taxpayers approximately $2.2 million per year, officials say.