Commissioner Louis Giorla (contd)

To a small extent prisons are a necessity, but there are some individuals that are physically dangerous to themselves and others, so they need to be confined. It’s not quite the numbers that we get now, one of the reasons we’re crowded is society can’t figure out what to do with some people. Those seriously indicted who can’t change their behavior, those mentally ill who don’t respond to treatment or are low functioning, you know, so what do you do? You get them out of sight and you give them to somebody who you think will take care of them. We try and do our best.

(We can improve prisons) With a more intense array of treatment services. I never ran a state prison or a long term prison, one of the federal institutions where someone spends 10 to 20 years, you would think that in those facilities, you would have a lot more time to set and achieve your goals on somebody’s behavior. You know, you can have a lot more interaction. Here at a detention where someone only has to stay on average about 45 to 50 days over all, it’s maybe 90 days. So you have a small window, but, I think the battery of assessments and evaluations when somebody comes into one of these places, has to be expanded and it requires a lot of resources.

We do a physical evaluation, we do a mental health evaluation, we do a custody classification score for our own purposes so that they can exist safely and hopefully securely in this setting. But someone should also look at, what did you leave behind? Is your family taken care of? Do you have kids and how are they supported? What do you have when you get out? If you make bail do you have a place to go home to? Did you lose your job? I think of more of an analysis took place either at the pretrial or the initial incarceration. I say the first 10 days of incarceration, I think we’d get a better result. We seem to do pretty well with sentenced people because we seem to have enough time to interact with them. When you’ve got two years, you can plan. You have definite dates. When somebody’s here 2 to 3 weeks, you get them stabilized on medication if they need it, you try and stabilize any chronic health problems, if they have a mental health illness either you medicate or you give them some type of immediate treatment. Bring them up to speed and then you hope when they go out they’re not coming back.

Louis Giorla
Commissioner, Philadelphia Prison System
Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility

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