Philadelphia Jails to Release Prisoners Earlier in the Day
The information was revealed in a series of stories in August 2020 by The Philadelphia Inquirer. Following publication, Prison Commissioner Blanche Carney said, “Anyone released after the close of their facility’s Cashier’s Office will now receive their property at their facility.”
Ann Jacobs, director of the Prisoner Reentry Institute at New York City’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said, “This is a good example of a system listening and responding in a way that looks like it will make a big difference.” Making sure that the changes are permanent will require “collaborative vigilance,” said Jacobs.
‘‘You can’t rest on your laurels. What we know about any kind of systems change is that it changes as long as it’s being observed and measured.”
Philly jails’ spokesperson Mallie Salerno stated that every person released from jail will receive their possessions at the facility in which they were incarcerated, regardless of time. And those who require cash will be driven to Philadelphia’s largest jail, Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, to retrieve their money from a prison staff member, regardless of the time of day.
In terms of releasing prisoners at reasonable hours when public transportation is available, things aren’t so straightforward. Shawn Hawes, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Department of Prisons, said, ‘‘We cannot legally hold anyone beyond a court-ordered release.” The department has a policy of not releasing female prisoners after 1 a.m., but it was found that, according to the Inquirer, in a recent year 273 female prisoners were released between 1 and 5 a.m. when there were no city buses running.
‘‘We try to discourage it, but we can’t hold them,” said Hawes.
“These women by design are vulnerable,” Jacobs said. “They are going to be preyed upon at best for sex; at worst it puts their lives in jeopardy.”