7 Worst Prisons in The State of Pennsylvania (2024)

The State of Pennsylvania has a distinct history in Penology because it was the birthplace of the penitentiary concept, which was back then also known as the Pennsylvania Prison System. Over the years, the prison system in Pennsylvania has grown in size and number.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PADOC) is the governing authority responsible for all prison administration, rehabilitation, and confinement. According to recent data, PADOC looks after an estimated 37,000 inmates across Pennsylvania’s state prison network.

Overview of Prisons in Pennsylvania:

Unlike in other US states, the prison system of Pennsylvania is well managed and well funded. This comes down to several reasons, which include ensuring access to education of inmates, maintenance of prisons, manageable size of prisons, and PADOC officials being trained to exhibit professionalism when handling offenders.

However, this is not to overlook facts as several prisons in Pennsylvania do not have friendly conditions and require dire need of attention. According to a recent report, the number of suicides in Pennsylvania prisons is increasing, again on the rise after almost two decades.

What makes a prison worse in Pennsylvania?

There are several reasons which make prisons worse in Pennsylvania. These includes:

  • Lack of access to education and other programs that help the inmates for rehabilitation so they can take an active role in society upon their release.
  • The living conditions inside prisons are maintained, and prisons do not suffer due to a lack of access to cleaning water, coolers or heaters in winter, and food.
  • Guards use excessive force on prisoners.
  • Ensuring gangs do not build up in prisons. Prisons are where all criminals are arranged together for collective punishment and rehabilitation. This also allows them to build a team and target minority members or guards.

9 Worst prisons in the State of Pennsylvania:

The following includes the worst prisons in the state of Pennsylvania:

  • SCI Fayette
  • SCI Camp Hill - Worst Prison in Penn
  • SCI Coal Township
  • SCI Benner Township
  • SCI Rockview
  • SCI Forest

We will update this article and add more of the worst prisons in the State of Pennsylvania.

1. SCI Fayette:

State Correctional Institution Fayette is one of the worst prisons in the State of Pennsylvania, and due to rampant prison fights, this prison is at the top of our list.

The prison is a maximum security one and has a 2,000-bed capacity. While the prison has been famous for manufacturing license plates for Pennsylvania since 2003, it is also famous for groups of criminals fighting with other groups or guards, due to which several deaths have been reported in just over the last decade.

SCI Fayette has 40 small cells located at the end of the prison, where prisoners who have proven to be the worst of the worst are kept because the authorities say there is no other way for them to maintain discipline in prison. The conditions in these small cells are hell-like because inmates are barely allowed to shower, there is no sunlight, visits to relatives are not allowed, and food is only served through pie holes.

This is not it; the death rate due to cancer has also doubled in SCI Fayette since 2003; reports say that 52.78% of all inmate deaths are due to cancer compared to 28.6% in other facilities managed by PADOC. The rise in deaths due to cancer is attributed to the lack of medical facilities to care for the inmates.

Getting transferred to this prison will have you worry about either being locked in a small cell, fighting with other gang members, or your health.

2. SCI Camp Hill - Worst Prison in Penn

State Correctional Institute Camp Hill, which saw a three-day uprising in 1989 due to overcrowding and administrative changes that impacted visits, food, and medical care, made the prison a much better place. However, after a few years, things return to where they were.

Camp Hill, which has a capacity of 2,600 men accommodated in 14 prison buildings, is again seeing a surge in administration-led neglect, which is why suicides in prison are increasing. Additionally, the sexual victimization of prisoners is also on the rise.

While the authorities are responding to the early signs of what can go wrong in the future, the prison, however, is not in a healthy shape as it once was.

3. SCI Coal Township

The third one on our list is State Correctional Institute Coal Township. The prison has a capacity of 2,153 and was opened in 1993. Over the years, Coal Township has remained a stable prison, but that is changing fast since 2020.

The main issue the prison faces is a high rise in sexual victimization, where 3.9% of inmates reported being victims of sexual attacks. Additionally, the rise in inmate suicides is also increasing due to poor hygiene and structural system.

These challenges are growing due to overcrowding after the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic and can worsen things in the coming days.

4. SCI Benner Township:

State Correctional Institute Benner Township, also known as SCI Benner, is a medium-level security prison with a capacity of 1900. SCI Benner was opened in 2013; however, it has been caught up in a terrible reputation ever since its opening.

The problem of overcrowding is one of the major ones among others which is also a leading cause of inmates not getting enough access to food and other facilities. Due to this, suicides have become a common occurrence in prison since there is no care for prisoners, and they feel there is no escape from their worries.

The prison, despite being new, is not a place many would want to serve.

5. SCI Rockview:

State Correctional Institution Rockview, commonly known as SCI Rockview, is a medium-level security prison. It was opened in 1912, making it one of the oldest in Pennsylvania. The prison became famous after the 1978 movie “On The yard,” which was solely shot on it with prisoners being used as extras.

Overall the prison has served to be one of the most professional and healthy ones in Pennsylvania; however, since it is located a few miles from downtown, this has increased the urge of prisoners to escape, and the occurrences of prisoners escaping in the 1990s became extremely common.

To ensure this does not happen, the authorities employ extremely strict methods to ensure prisoners remain where they should be. Due to this, there have been reports of prisoners not being allowed their outdoor time, not given proper food, rampant changes in their cells and guards, fewer programs being offered, and guards punishing anyone who they believe might try to make a prison break.

6. SCI Forest:

The last one on our list is State Correctional Institute Forest is a twenty-first-century maximum security prison with a capacity of 2,309 inmates. It was opened in 2004, keeping in mind to share the overcrowding burden of SCI Pittsburgh and SCI Waynesburg.

The prison has fairly good facilities to hold offenders found guilty of serious crimes. However, it does not mean the prison offers an ideal place for offenders. For one, the guards are reported to use excessive force on the inmates, and the other is gangs within the prison which are often led by some of the most notorious criminals.

This is a reason why there is a slow increase in the number of prison suicide, and authorities are yet to take note of these incidents.

Read more articles:

  • Minimum, Medium, and Maximum Level Prisons in the State of Pennsylvania
  • Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4, Level 5 Prisons in Ohio
  • Byrd Unit Texas: Everything You Need To Know About This Facility
  • List of Maximum security prisons in the New York State
  • Segovia Unit Brief Overview Visiting Hours, Inmate Phones, And Location
7 Worst Prisons in The State of Pennsylvania (2024)


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