State Correctional Institution – Graterford

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State Correctional Institution Graterford
Seal of the Department of Corrections of Pennsylvania.svg
LocationSkippack Township, Montgomery County, PA
Coordinates40°13′45″N 75°26′20″W / 40.229277°N 75.438762°W / 40.229277; -75.438762Coordinates: 40°13′45″N 75°26′20″W / 40.229277°N 75.438762°W / 40.229277; -75.438762
Managed byPennsylvania Department of Corrections

The Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Graterford, also known variously as SCI Graterford (SCIG), Eastern Correctional Institution, Graterford Prison, Graterford Penitentiary, and the Graterford Prison Farm, was a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections prison located in Skippack Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, United States,[1] near Graterford.[2] The prison, located on Graterford Road off of Pennsylvania Route 29,[3] was about 31 miles (50 km) northwest of the city of Philadelphia.[2]

The prison, described by Joseph Stefano of the Philadelphia Inquirer as the primary state prison serving the Philadelphia metropolitan area,[4] once housed a small number of male death row inmates.[5] Graterford closed in 2018 and was replaced by SCI Phoenix.


The facility, built in 1929, was Pennsylvania's largest maximum-security prison, holding about 3,500 prisoners.[citation needed] It replaced functions at Eastern Penitentiary in Philadelphia, which had previously experienced some disturbances.[6]

The Graterford grounds include an extensive prison farm on 1,730 acres (7.0 km2); the 62-acre (250,000 m2) prison compound itself lies within 30-foot (9.1 m) high walls surmounted by nine manned towers. An $80 million construction program completed in 1989 added a new administration building, a 28-bed infirmary, and 372 additional cells.

As recently as 1978 the prison held only about 1,600 prisoners in 2,000 available cells distributed among five major cellblocks of 400 cells each. The five major cellblocks were supplemented by about 40 cells in a security unit known as BAU (Behavior Adjustment Unit) or RHU (Restricted Housing Unit); this unit included a special death row section (though executions were never carried out at this prison). The original 1929 plan for the facility included eight major cellblocks of 400 cells each, or 3,200 individual cells. An engraving of this plan is found on a brass plaque just inside the facility's double-gated airlock-type main entrance.

The prison's two current Restricted Housing Units (RHU) are essentially prisons within a prison and house over 300 prisoners — about 10 percent of the total prison population - who are allowed one hour a day for exercise, remaining confined to their cells the other 23, where they receive three meals a day and are permitted shower visits. The prisoners in RHU are allowed only one visitor per month. SCI-Graterford has a 22-bed Mental Health Unit contracted to MHM Services to facilitate a mental health program.

SCI-Graterford Industries provides work and economic activity within the prison, including a garment factory, undergarment factory, shoe factory, weave plant, hosiery factory, carton factory, and a mail distribution center. Prison factories and industries employ 21 civilian staff, 315 inmate staff, and in 2003-2004 generated revenues of $4,450,940.01. The prison also conducts farming operations and educational programs.

In the final period of operations, Cynthia Link, the superintendent of Graterford and the prospective superintendent of Graterford's replacement facility, SCI Phoenix, resigned. Laurel Harry, previously the superintendent of SCI Camp Hill, became the interim superintendent.[7]

SCI Phoenix opened in July 2018.[8] The state began moving Graterford prisoners there on July 11, 2018, and Graterford ended operations on July 15.[9] All Graterford employees became Phoenix employees.[4] Some inmates disliked the move as they feared they would be sharing cells with other inmates, while at Graterford they had single cells.[10] The population of Graterford was reduced so the transfer of inmates to Phoenix would not involve as many people.[11]


Graterford had a music program for inmates, Songs in the Key of Free, manned by volunteers and established in October 2016. A previous musical program ended around 2006.[12] The program ended on May 21, 2018 as a result of Graterford's closure. In addition the stress reduction and therapy programs from Rutgers University professor Nancy Wolff were also terminated as part of the move.[13]


  1. ^ "Zoning Map." Skippack Township, Montgomery County. Retrieved on May 29, 2010.
  2. ^ a b "SCI Graterford." Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Retrieved on May 29, 2010.
  3. ^ "Graterford Prison Driving Directions." Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Retrieved on January 9, 2013.
  4. ^ a b DeStefano, Joseph (18 April 2016). "Pennsylvania's new prison is as big as the Comcast Center". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  5. ^ Murphy, Jan. "Q&A on the death penalty in Pa.: How does someone get put to death, more " (Archive). January 5, 2015. Retrieved on February 1, 2016.
  6. ^ "SCI Graterford." Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. March 24, 2018. Retrieved on September 27, 2018.
  7. ^ Melamed, Samantha. "Was Graterford inmate on suicide watch when he took his life? Superintendent is out, but answers scarce". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2018-09-26.
  8. ^ Pradelli, Chad (2018-09-25). "Bill Cosby heads to prison at SCI Phoenix". WPVI-TV. Retrieved 2018-09-26.
  9. ^ "Moving from Graterford to Phoenix." Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Retrieved on September 26, 2018.
  10. ^ Moselle, Aaron (2018-05-21). "As Graterford inmates move to new prison, prospect of sharing cells worries some". WHYY. Retrieved 2018-09-26.
  11. ^ DiStefano, Joseph (2018-07-19). "Phoenix prison is finished, but not full, or fully paid for". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2018-09-27.
  12. ^ Melamed, Samantha (2017-05-24). "After a decade without music, Pa. prison inmates play again. The result is remarkable". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2018-09-26.
  13. ^ Melamed, Samantha (2018-05-17). "Pennsylvania's newest, most expensive prison is finally ready - and inmates are dreading it". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2018-10-09.

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