Philly prisons announce security changes after a man was murdered on the grounds

Rodney Hargrove had just posted bail when he was shot and killed in front of the Curran-Fromhold jail. Three weeks later, procedural changes are in the works.

The Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility on State Road in Philadelphia.

The Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility on State Road in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

After a young man was murdered this month on the grounds of a Philadelphia prison immediately after being released, city officials say they’re instituting new safety measures.

Rodney Hargrove, 20, posted bail and left the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia’s Holmesburg section around 1 a.m. on March 18. He was waiting for a bus across the street when a car drove up, according to prison officials. When Hargrove ran back onto facility grounds, the car followed, and occupants shot him near the prison’s main entrance.

“The Philadelphia Department of Prisons remains shocked and horrified that Rodney Hargrove … was murdered on our grounds,” Prisons Commissioner Blanche Carney said in a statement Wednesday. “We recognize that this murder erodes public trust in the safety and operations of PDP facilities.”

The department is not waiting for the conclusion of its investigation to launch several new security practices, she said.

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Previously, the prison had no security cameras at Curran-Fromhold’s main gate, according to the union that represents city correctional officers. That meant there was no footage of Hargrove’s murder — a fact the union said is troubling.

“You would think … that it would install at least at the minimum security cameras at the entrances of the prison system,” said Eric Hill, business manager for Local 159 of AFSCME District Council 33.

Now, the department is installing new cameras and license plate readers at parking lot entrances — not just at Curran-Fromhold, but also at the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center and the Detention Center, which serves as the system’s medical unit. Those readers are supposed to track any vehicle that enters or exits a facility’s front gate.

Carney is also revisiting how Philly prisons handle bail. Hargrove, she noted, posted his payment at 10:30 p.m., but wasn’t actually released until hours later.

Because of that, she said, her department is checking “with its legal counsel and other criminal justice partners” to see whether the current 24-hour bail process can be amended so people won’t be released in the middle of the night. It’s also considering paying for ride-sharing service in cases where public transportation isn’t an option.

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Hargrove’s killers were able to follow him back onto prison grounds because the automatic arm designed to keep people from driving vehicles up to the jail’s main entrance was raised. In an early press conference about the incident, Carney set off a firestorm by saying a prison guard had raised the gate “for whatever reason.”

Hill, of Local 159, said the comment was an unfair “concluding prejudgement” that was made before the department interviewed the officer who had been on duty. The union ended up calling for Carney to resign. A spokesperson said last week that she has no plans to do so.

Hargrove’s murder wasn’t the only one that raised the ire of advocacy groups this month. Another prisoner, 35-year-old Armani Faison, was killed at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility last weekend.

Faison was sexually assaulted and left unresponsive in his cell, and later died. The Philadelphia Inquirer has reported that his cellmate at the time had recently been accused of trying to sexually assault another incarcerated man, and that Faison’s cell had been left unsupervised for three hours.

The Philadelphia Department of Prisons says it’s still investigating Faison’s death.

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