After 2 years of declines, Philadelphia prison population rises

Posted: July 13, 2012

The city's prison population is on the rise again.

The Pew Chartiable Trusts Philadelphia Research Initiative reported Thursday that 8,732 people were behind bars in June, an 8.5 percent increase from the same point last year.

Pew said the population numbers have been higher every month this year than they were in 2011.

The jump comes after two years of decreases to the prison population.

City officials said the increase is somewhat attributed to two factors: Mayor Nutter's plea from earlier this year for the courts to implement higher bail figures for suspects who are charged with illegal gun possession, and automatic contempt charges, plus higher bail, for suspects who have failed to appear in court.

Nutter's spokesman, Mark McDonald, said an inmate's average length of stay in prison has also increased by more than 90 days because of court processing.

"We were aware of the trade-off, that making sure that someone arrested on [weapons violations] doesn't easily make bail would increase jail sentences and the [prison] population," McDonald said.

Pew previously reported that the prison population peaked in 2009 at 9,787 inmates, a staggering figure that prompted Pew to focus a report on the costs of the city's crowded prisons.

The popluation fell below 7,700 inmates last spring.

Shawn Hawes, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Prison System, said Thursday night that the current population isn't "an unmangabeable number. We haven't had to utilize any county resources for [inmate] overflow at this point."

Contact David Gambacorta at 215-854-5994 or, or follow on Twitter at @dgambacorta.

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