Organization found 'red flags' in evaluations of Philadelphia prisons: 'It's a real crisis'

A Pennsylvania non-profit organization claims it found several red flags during evaluations of Philadelphia's five prisons, days after city's first prison break in a decade. 

Ameen Hurst, 18, and Nasir Grant, 24, sprung themselves free from the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center around 8:30 Sunday night, investigators said. Prisons Commissioner Blanche Carney told reporters the duo missed three headcounts before prison guards realized they were missing Monday afternoon.

Sources tell FOX 29 that holding cell doors and a door to an outside recreation yard were left unlocked. The inmates were able to walk out of a housing unit that was not directly manned from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday night due to understaffing, according to a source. Guards in neighboring units were supposed to keep watch, sources said.

After climbing through a hole in a perimeter fence - which may have been previously cut and fashioned to look unbroken - sources say Hurst and Grant were able to climb two more fences and escape the facility. Investigators found blood and pieces of bloody clothing that may have been left behind by Hurst and Grant.


The prison guard union claims that perimeter posts that have been left unmanned for months due to budget cuts may have aided Hurst and Grant's escape, while the city said it "categorically denies" those claims.

Pennsylvania Prison Society, a non-profit organization that monitors all county and state prisons in Pennsylvania, says it evaluated Philadelphia Department of Prisons's five facilities for two years and raised a number of red flags; including concerns about staffing. 

"The staffing crisis is perhaps the most visible and potentially led to this, or impacted this escape, but it’s also impacted the lives and basic rights of 4,500 Philadelphians on a daily basis," Prison Managing Director Noah Barth said. 

Barth says a court-appointed monitor issued a report that highlighted a 40% vacancy rate for security staff among all Philadelphia jails, and a need for at least 800 new correctional officers. Providing a behind-the-scenes look at the prison system, Barth said housing units consist of two to four pods that can hold up to 150 inmates. 

"We have directly observed pods left unattended and have heard it from people in various units across the Philadelphia prison system, that their units sometimes go unsupervised only with staff outside in the control booth, or not even there," Barth said. 

"Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center also has had a lot of problems recently with their locks and past disturbances of people getting out of their cells, and jamming locks, so there have been previous security concerns about this building in particular." 

Barth called the challenges facing the city's prison system a "real crisis" that needs "serious addressing" from Philadelphia's leadership. 

The City of Philadelphia and U.S. Marshals have issued a combined $25k reward for information that leads to the arrest of Hurst and Grant.