Corzine Closes $31 Million Prison

CAMDEN—New Jersey’s second newest prison, Riverfront State Prison, in Camden, has been shut down.

The last remaining inmates housed at Riverfront State Prison, a medium-security facility on the Delaware River in the shadow of the Ben Franklin Bridge, were moved from the site in June.

The prison, which had room for about 1,000 inmates, opened in 1985 at a cost of $31 million.

However, its prime waterfront location has troubled Camden area leaders for years, and it’s hoped that redeveloping the 17-acre tract – just north of the Ben Franklin Bridge – will be the catalyst for the area’s rebirth.

The property will be turned over to the state Department of Treasury, which will prepare the area for redevelopment.

Camden leaders want the area turned into residences and recreational areas. No date has been set for demolition of the buildings.

Over the last two decades, as the prices of waterfront properties have skyrocketed and as Camden has added an aquarium, a major-concert venue, a minor-league baseball stadium and the Battleship New Jersey to its waterfront, the city found that it had a jackpot trapped beneath a prison.

The Camden County Jail just a few blocks away has 1,650 inmates, 113 of whom were said to be state prisoners, according to a county spokesman interviewed in January.  There is no word on whether that facility will be closing.

Gregory Kelley, president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 105, thinks that demolishing the second-newest of New Jersey’s 14 prisons and one that is in good condition is baffling, considering that many New Jersey prisons have been in poor shape since the early 20th century.

Kelley and other correction officers’ union officials say they believe that the state’s concern is not for public safety so much as it is capitalizing on waterfront property.

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