Five blocks from the hard stone and long shadows of Pittsburgh’s 137-year-old prison, trainees walk the skylit, art-and-orchid-adorned halls of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation. If that training center buys the State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh for $1, it will take a lot of work and money to bring an airy, open atmosphere to a place with dungeon charm, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Manchester Bidwell president and CEO Kevin Jenkins admits he doesn’t have a plan to take on the 22-acre prison site, closed for two years. Word that the state plans to sell the massive prison complex for $1 has raised concerns in surrounding neighborhoods. Councilwoman Darlene Harris was surprised that Pennsylvania “would sell 22 acres with so much history, for a dollar.”
Manchester Bidwell Corporation trains 140 adults and 1,200 youth annually in job skills. Using the existing prison buildings seems out of the question. Jenkins says he doesn’t want to build “a world-class training facility,” especially one for marginalized populations, “inside a penitentiary-type setting.” The massive prison site has more than a dozen buildings, including the old warden’s quarters, prison housing units, dining hall, auditorium, storage buildings, warehouse, visitors’ complex, and the 1922 “correctional industries” shop buildings where license plates were manufactured.