Twenty nine Philadelphia jail inmates have died during the COVID pandemic, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Mark Subher was held in Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Northeast Philadelphia. Surveillance video shows Subher was stabbed in a unit with no staff to respond. The video shows three prisoners attacking Subher, one stabbing him repeatedly with a homemade knife, others punching and stomping him. After Subher got away, they had time to conceal the evidence, mopping up the trail of blood. Subher experienced firsthand conditions that staffers, prisoners, and outside observers say have deteriorated during the pandemic to a full-blown crisis that they say officials have downplayed or sought to cover up. Subher described months of lockdowns, leaving his cell an hour or two a day (and not at all on many weekends).
In Subher's 22 months in jail, 25 people died — an annual jail mortality rate seventy seven percent higher than the national average. Of those, at least three died by suicide, five by homicide, and 10 by drug overdose. During at least two deaths, no staff were present. The Philadelphia Department of Prisons acknowledged only two of the deaths in news releases. In interviews and lawsuits, staff and prisoners have attributed the deaths, riots, and assaults to a dangerously short-staffed department. The deficit has climbed to 644 officers, exacerbated by absenteeism, averaging twenty percent of staff per shift. Over the last year, twice as many officers left as were hired. City leaders, including Mayor James Kenney, declined interview requests or defended conditions at the complex, calling staff complaints in particular as a negotiating tactic during ongoing contract talks.