Report shows nearly half of correctional officer jobs in Philly vacant as new prisons commissioner announced

CBS News Philadelphia, 04/10/24: “There is new leadership at the Philadelphia Department of Prisons. Michael Resnick was formally introduced as the new commissioner by Mayor Cherelle Parker on Wednesday afternoon.

The former city public safety director and acting prisons commissioner in 2016 walks into a department besieged by challenges from a federal lawsuit, serious understaffing issues, complaints about conditions behind prison walls and more.

‘I am cognizant of the issues facing the department and the challenges that lie ahead,’ Resnick said at City Hall Wednesday.

For nearly the last two years, Philadelphia prisons have been under the watchful eye of a court-appointed monitor stemming from a federal class-action lawsuit. In her latest report, Monitor Cathleen Beltz noted that 46% of budgeted correctional officer jobs remain vacant.

‘Frequent staff assaults, fights, stabbings, rampant contraband and extortion, and security breaches have been made possible or exacerbated by the staffing shortage,’ Beltz wrote in the March 29 report.

David Robinson, a longtime correctional officer and current Chief of Staff for District Council 33, said officers face plenty of challenges daily.

‘Dangerously understaffed, overcrowded with inmates, as well as you’re dealing with the elements, K2 smoke,’ said Robinson.

Beltz’s latest report also notes the prison population in the city rose to 4,666 as of Jan. 1, a rise of 323 from the year prior. Beltz noted the department achieved only partial compliance in 19 sub-provisions and non-compliance in seven sub-provisions out of a total of 37.

In light of the report, on Monday, the Abolitionist Law Center, Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, and law firm Kairys Rudovsky Messing Feinberg & Lin filed a contempt motion for ‘failure to comply with the settlement agreement.'”

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