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Pennsylvania Department of General Services greenlights Graterford Prison project

Built in 1929, Skippack's Graterford State Prison has housed hundreds of thousands of inmates. And like many prisoners past and present at this maximum security facility, the proposal to rebuild Graterford to its former glory looked like it might be locked up in litigation or even facing a death sentence as recently as last week. After entering bids for the $365 million project, a group of builders successfully sued the state Department of General Services on Sept. 1, alleging that the Department violated state law by limiting the number of construction companies considered. But this week, after nearly a year of court battles, the Department selected Walsh Construction and Heery International as principal builders, keeping the tentative opening date of March 2014.

"The need for the prison was based on inmate population exceeding available capacity, as determined by the State Department of Corrections," says PA Department of General Services Secretary Elizabeth O'Reilly. "This is not a recent development. It has been going on for at least several years."

The Graterford project is part of a state-wide initiative to add 9,000 beds to the overcrowded state prison system. The Walsh/Heery proposal calls for a maximum security ward, as well as a smaller, medium-security facility, with a total capacity of just over 4,000 male inmates. If successful, Graterford will become Pennsylvania's first LEED-certified prison, utilizing storm water runoff and local, low-impact materials.  

"It is a prison so there can't be many design initiatives but it will be a LEED-certified prison, which is not typical, especially in the commonwealth," says O'Reilly. "It's pretty exciting."

Source: Elizabeth O'Reilly, PA Department of General Services
Writer: John Steele
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