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As a people, we must put books before bars

I’M STARTING to fear for the future of Philadelphia’s children, because education seems to have taken a back seat to imprisonment. At least that’s what it looks like to me.

Why else would City Council consider Bill No. 150406, which would empower the city to spend $7.27 million to buy land at 7777 State Road? The land, according to bill sponsor Councilman Bobby Henon, could eventually be home to a new, possibly $500 million prison, replacing the 140-year-old House of Correction.

To be sure, there are legitimate reasons to replace the aging prison, which houses 1,500 minimum-to-medium-security inmates. Both Councilmen William Greenlee and David Oh, who support Henon’s bill, told me in interviews that conditions at the prison are deplorable.

But, in my view, the current prison’s poor physical condition is not a reason to replace it, but, rather, to close the prison permanently.

Philadelphia, with the highest poverty rate among America’s largest cities, has allowed the prison to become a warehouse for the poor. Seventy-five percent of its prisoners are awaiting trial. Many are there because they can’t make bail. Most don’t perform at even a high-school level, according to Prisons Commissioner Louis Giorla.

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Solomon Jones is an Essence bestselling author and award-winning columnist. He is the creator and editor of and morning host on 900 am WURD radio. Click here to learn more about Solomon

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