First look at replacement for aging Graterford prison

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First look at replacement for aging Graterford prison. Vernon Odom reports during Action News at 6pm on June 1, 2018. (WPVI)

We got our first look at Pennsylvania's newest correctional facility, which will replace the aging Graterford prison.

The State Correctional Institution in Montgomery County was built only about one mile from the nearly 100-year-old Graterford.

Officials say it is state-of-the-art, with the latest security systems, medical and recreational facilities, private shower stalls and a modern kitchen.

More than 12,000 meals will be prepared here every day.

But despite the amenities, security for the correction officers is paramount.

"We have real state-of-the-art security technology. Every officer will have GPS on them, so if something happens and an officer gets in trouble, the control center will know exactly where that officer is so we can send people," said Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel.

The facility cost $400 million to complete and has elements to make visiting families more comfortable when they visit an incarcerated loved one.

"There will be a children's area that offers a mock setting in the event children will be partaking in a visit, that would be non-contact," said Superintendent Tammy Ferguson.

The transfer of inmates from old Graterford prison, which opened in 1929, to this sparkling new facility, will happen in about 6 weeks. That will mean a steady flow of roughly 4,000 men and 192 women will be moved in the course of a week.

One veteran Graterford employee said the old-timers are looking at the move with apprehension.

"A lot of our staff and a lot of offenders don't want to leave Graterford. They have a bond with it, a connection with the facility itself," said Major Scott Bowman.

Make no mistake: as clean and modern as the State Correctional Institution at Phoenix appears, it is still a maximum security prison, replacing a relic of the past.

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