Holmesburg Prison

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Coordinates: 40°02′14″N 75°01′08″W / 40.037123°N 75.018779°W / 40.037123; -75.018779

Holmesburg Prison seen from the air.

Holmesburg Prison is part of the City of Philadelphia Prison System. Built in 1896 and in continuous use until 1995, the facility is located at 8215 Torresdale Ave in the Holmesburg section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was the site of a controversial decades-long dermatological, pharmaceutical, and biochemical weapons research projects involving testing on inmates.[1][2][3][4] The prison is also notable for several major riots in the early 1970s as well as a report released in 1968 of the results of an extensive two-year investigation by the Offices of the Philadelphia Police Commissioner and the District Attorney of Philadelphia documenting hundreds of cases of the rape of inmates.[1][5][3] The 1998 book Acres of Skin: Human Experiments at Holmesburg Prison, by Allen Hornblum, documents clinical non-therapeutic medical experiments on prison inmates at Holmesburg.

Today the prison is used for filming and other purposes. Only a renovated gymnasium is considered suitable for holding inmates. That building is frequently used for overflow from other city jails.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

The prison was the location for many of the scenes in the 1995 film Condition Red, the 1996 film Up Close & Personal, the 2000 film Animal Factory, and the 2009 film Law Abiding Citizen

The prison was also part of an art project by Spanish artists María Jesús González and Patricia Gómez who created large-scale prints, photographs and related videos during their artist residency at the Prison. The artists, neither of whom has exhibited previously in the U.S., have a collaborative practice grounded in art conservation; utilizing a modified version of a technique known as strappo, they worked primarily to preserve the surfaces of buildings—the veritable “skin of architecture”—by detaching a wall’s paint with glues and fabric and transferring that surface paint, in its entirety, to a new canvas. They created large-format “prints” of drawings, paintings, and graffiti left by former inmates on the walls using this method.

The artists' prints are a physical archive of the prison cells—including paint, drawings and markings left by the inmates who lived there. More information can be found at http://www.philagrafika.org/G_G.html.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Hornblum, Allen (1998). Acres of Skin: Human Experiments at Holmesburg Prison. New York, New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-91990-8. 
  2. ^ "Pennsylvania prison riot leaves 103 injured". The Bulletin. Bend, Deschutes County, Oregon: UPI. July 6, 1970. Retrieved November 9, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b "Philadelphia Prison Shifts 235 After Slaying of Two Officials". The New York Times. New York, New York. June 17, 1973. p. 49. Retrieved November 9, 2009. 
  4. ^ "Ex-Holmesburg Inmates File Suit Over Experiments". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. October 18, 2000. Retrieved November 9, 2009. 
  5. ^ "Pennsylvania prison riot leaves 103 injured". The Bulletin. Bend, Deschutes County, Oregon: UPI. July 6, 1970. Retrieved November 9, 2009. 
  6. ^ Terruso, Julia (22 June 2016). "City won't use Holmesburg to house protesters after all". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 23 June 2016. 

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