State to close Camden's Riverfront State Prison

January 15, 2009 11:00:28 AM PST
Inmates won't be going up the river in Camden for much longer. The New Jersey Department of Corrections said it is planning to close Riverfront State Prison, likely by the end of June.

The prison, which can hold about 1,000 inmates, is the second newest in the state system. But its prime waterfront location has troubled city leaders for years.

When the prison opened in 1985 just to the north of the Ben Franklin Bridge, it was in an industrial area on the decline.

But after RCA and Campbell Soup moved plants out of the area, Camden's waterfront was remade as a tourist destination.

It now has an amphitheater, minor-league baseball stadium, aquarium and other attractions. City boosters have long daydreamed about redeveloping the prison property, too.

One community organization has developed plans for how the North Camden neighborhood might be redeveloped with the prison moved.

Corrections Department spokesman Matt Schuman said Thursday that the department began moving inmates out of the prison months ago - and now about 780 remain.

Schuman said the population of the state's prisons has shrunk from about 27,000 five years ago to about 22,000 now. That means there is room at the 13 other state prisons to absorb inmates from Riverfront.

Schuman said the state does not plan to lay off any of the roughly 400 employees - about 300 of them corrections officers- at Riverfront and wants to move them to other facilities.

Leaders of unions for guards are objecting to the closure, though.

Schuman said it costs the state about $42 million per year to run the prison, but it's not clear how much might be saved by closing it.


Information from: Courier-Post,

Click here to get the latest Philadelphia news and headlines from across the Delaware and Lehigh valleys.