Priorities are out of whack in Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is so broke the city is closing 23 public schools, never mind that it has the cash to build a $400 million prison.
Construction on the penitentiary said to be “the second-most expensive state project ever” began just days after the Pennsylvania School Reform Commission voted down a plan to close only four of the 27 schools scheduled to die. Facing a $304 million debt, the Commission instead approved a measly $2.4 billion budget that would shut down 23 public schools, wiping out roughly 10% of the city’s total.
But it’s not like Pennsylvania does not have the money to fill the debt. Rather, PA’s GOP-controlled Houseof Representatives recently passed a tax break for corporations that will cost the state an estimated $600 million to $800 million annually.
Plus, $400 million is being shoveled into this:
The penitentiary, which is technically two facilities, will supplement at least two existing jails, the Western Penitentiary at Pittsburgh and Fayette County Jail. Pittsburgh’s Western Penitentiary was built in 2003 with the original intention of replacing Fayette County Jail, but the prison has struggled with lawsuits claiming widespread physical and sexual abuse of prisoners.
Scheduled to be completed in 2015, the new prison’s cell blocks and classroom will be capable of housing almost 5,000 inmates. Officials said there will be buildings for female inmates, the mentally ill and a death row population.
The youths of color dispoportionately affected by school closings can just hang out there.
Kristen Gwynne is an associate editor and drug policy reporter at AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter: @KristenGwynne