Fighting to Save State Prisons

HUNLOCK CREEK -- There were plenty of questions from the crowd at the Hunlock Creek Fire Company Monday night at an informational meeting regarding potential state prison closures.

The state Department of Corrections plans to close two state prisons by July, choosing from a list of five prisons, including SCI Waymart in Wayne County, SCI Frackville in Schuylkill County, and SCI Retreat in Luzerne County.

It's a move that some say will cripple Luzerne County's economy.

"A lot of what ifs, what do I do? You know? You have a lot of younger employees, ‘I just built a house. I just got married. I just had a child. Now my job is going to be leaving. Where am I going? What happens after this?’” said Mark Truszkowski of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association.

State leaders say the prison population is going down and with a budget deficit, prisons must close.

State Senator John Yudichak told the crowd at the meeting in Hunlock Creek he will try to keep the prisons open by demanding public hearings.

"There's potential of a thousand jobs being lost in northeastern Pennsylvania. That's unacceptable. These people deserve a public hearing, deserve to fight for their jobs,” he said.

SCI Retreat near Hunlock Creek employs about 400 people and houses about 1,100 inmates. If it closes, the workers will be able to transfer to other prisons.

Still, they say it would be a major hardship.

"It is a hardship because they go to where the openings are at. We don't determine that. It's solely the commonwealth's prerogative. There's a brand new facility vacant in Philadelphia. These jobs transfer there, so it has a big impact on the community, churches, school, the economy, all that. It's a big move,” said Jim Chernavage, of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association.

State officials plan to make a decision about which two prisons will close by January 26. Senator Yudichak calls the move "insanity." He's pushing for them to hit the pause button on that date until they have more information and public hearings can be held.

22 comments

  • george coggins (@mindash)

    It’s a move that some say will cripple Luzerne County’s economy.

    What is an economy built on shoving its residents behind bars for revenue truly worth? we spend far too much time punishing building resentment instead of actually changing anything aside from inducing more misery when the f*ck will people wake up and get over this sort of residential and public extortion. colorado and washington made over 6 BILLION!!!!!!!!! in cannabis sales alone but we’d rather make a fraction of that and imprison people instead. THINK PEOPLE USE THE BRAIN NATURE GAVE YOU

    • Joy

      It’s really hard to take you serious as an educated person when you use the f word to articulate your thoughts. People go to prison because they commit crime. Sorry you couldn’t figure that out. Ask for a brain next Christmas…

  • Robert

    Roflmao! This must be one of the greatest ironies in the history of corrections.
    PSCOA (the corrections union) endorsed Wolf. Wolf then closed some jails.
    I can’t help but to think how stupid the leaders of that union are!
    Those greedy leaders have not stepped inside a jail in the capacity of a corrections officer in a decade!
    I hope they choke on their Bacon Wrapped Scallops, bought by the members that risk life and limb every day whom they have led astray.

  • Wolfeis great!

    Governor Wolfe would rather invest in heroin addicts than corrections officers. The same heroin addicts who voluntarily lie, cheat, and steal to stick needles in their arms–what a brilliant idea! Then, when they try to overdose he saves them one more time with Narcan! And for all their pain and suffering,Gov Wolfe gives them a disability check for simply being an addict…Forget corrections officers who get up each day and go to work to give their families a better life, provide their children health benefits, and be productive members of society. Join your local opiod community so you too can abuse the system and receive free handouts….they are usually congregating in a basement somewhere stealing copper piping; don’t worry about babysitting, they leave the kids in the car.

  • L

    MAYBE the state should stop handing out Overtime of COs and hire per diem employees to cover the call offs which would essentially be considered OT for the covering officer. Walk Time..yea, we pay overtime for them to walk into the prison and wait for their relief. Comp Time to come in on their days off to do training that is 8 hours long, but in reality around 1 hr of actually teaching. Its wasted money..oh, lets not forget the Uniform Allowance for them to buy new gear..WHICH THEY DO NOT!! The uniforms are FREE, the Inmates make them..what costs that much that we have to give each CO an allowance they don’t use. Get credit at a local uniform store and when a CO buys new boots, send a bill. Giving an allowance for these COs to use for whatever is insane. The COs, I don’t feel bad for them, they have it made with their jobs..Make sure you pay them overtime to cover a call off then have them sleep in the bubble because all inmates are in the dining hall.
    OVERTIME..stop handing out OVERTIME..some of these guys bring home over 100k a year in overtime..
    These COs have it made..oh and most of them just end up cheating on their spouses with the nurses and other staff members..probably why they need that hefty paycheck..to pay for child support when their husbands and wives find out.

    People are so worried about their paychecks..well maybe youre living beyond your means..maybe its time to downsize!!

  • allison leonard

    My husband is a CO at Waymart. Our future is up in the air because of a budget deficit. Our life, our way of living, our home, our child, our pets, our jobs. Placing blame on the current or past Governor does nothing for us. The damage is done. If Waymart closes that’s 700 jobs lost. 700 families that have to transfer/relocate. I can imagine SCI Dallas will only be taking the officers with the most seniority, that is not my husband who has worked at Waymart for almost 10 years. Same with all the CO’s at Retreat. That’s a devastating number of people out of jobs, families out of one of their incomes or maybe their only income. Relocate…sure, send us to Philly, cost of living is more expensive, finding a good school for our child, finding a home to buy because we have two dogs that own us, finding a job for myself…the list goes on and on.
    Where will all the criminally insane inmates that are house in forensics at Waymart go? What prisons will make them take their meds to make their time in the system more manageable and safer? How about all the other inmates, stack them on top of each other? The prisons will lose programs the inmates thrives on like education and AA all because there won’t be enough room to have those classes since the new inmates being transferred in will need someplace to stay. HELLO REPEAT OF CAMP HILL RIOT!
    Come on, there has to be some other way, closing 2 prisons in one area isn’t even logical. Crime isn’t going down and it’s not going anywhere.

    • Liliana

      It’s time for change. Your choices are – adapt or fight it and suffer. Perhaps your husband can take this opportunity to switch gears and find a more stable career. Prisons are going to fluctuate forever and guards will have to be hired and let go – no matter what prison it is. So, skip the transfer, take the layoff and find another career in this area if staying here is important. I just moved 400 miles away from my home state for a job…I was tired of taking the scraps that were local and took a leap of faith. Sometimes you have to do that.

      • allison leonard

        You did what you thought was the right decision for yourself, I respect that. Both my husband and myself were born and raised in the town we live in, both of our families are here. There aren’t very many, if any, job opportunities that pay what the prison does, it’s one of few jobs in this area that actually helps families get a little ahead and have some stability. My husband has a degree in elementary education but chose this career to actually be financially stable. We are both educated people, we both have worked our whole lives, don’t tell me that my husband should take a layoff to find another career. As an adult that’s not so practical when you have a family. He wants to remain employed and do what he does, you wouldn’t tell that to a teacher would you? He doesn’t want to lose the pension he rightfully deserves either.
        This isn’t a matter of people being hired and let go Liliana, this is a matter of 2 entire prisons closing. Over 1100 people out of work, not just my husband. That’s a hell of a lot of inmates being shoved into different prisons that are already pretty full. No, prisons fluctuating is the issue, the budget is. Also, my husband works with the criminally insane, these inmates are not your average inmates. This isn’t a job where people get let go and hired, this is a job where a union is involved.
        It is not time for change, maybe for you but not for my family. I have a child to worry about, that’s what my main concern is. How will he take being uprooted and moved to Philly so his dad can work at a higher risk prison.
        Please elaborate on “fight it and suffer” I’m not sure what you mean by that. No matter the outcome we will land on our feet but my husband will remain a CO to babysit all the people who feel breaking the law is a good choice. If we move, we move. If they close two prisons in NEPA we will watch the economy here take a huge hit. That’s a lot of people to lose jobs and to “adapt or fight it and suffer” isn’t it?
        I guess if all of the families were like you and moved over 400 miles away they’d be better off? The housing market here would be better off? The stores and small businesses would be better off? The school systems? All the spouses that will have to change jobs? Moving isn’t always an option for people you know.

        So no, closing his prison wouldn’t be a chance for my husband to find a more secure job, this was a secure job at one point. Sadly with this state being so broke, everyone is at risk anymore, CO’s, teachers, retailers, bankers, brokers, you name it.

  • David

    I’m not an employee of the Department of Corrections, just another tax payer. My question is what are you going to do with the 1100 prisoners, pack them in cells that have room only for two and make it a four part cell. Or is this another move by the Pa Governor to cut cost. We are taxed beyond any state now. This is not going to help anyone. I don’t believe for one minute that the prisons are getting less people in them.

    • TrumpeatsWolfs

      You are right the prison population is not going down. Its all a lie. If they put out numbers believe me its fudged numbers. And as for the prison they are building to replace graterford it will only hold about 200 more inmates than graterford. Why would they do that. This building and closing prisons scam they got going, it seems they are just scratching someone’s back that scratched theirs with construction contracts. And closing these prisons seems to me like A Democratic governor is punishing his people for not voting for a Democrats president. Furthermore, They want to close sci retreat because they want the county to pay for the bridge repair. They want to close frackville because they want to give it to the county for a county prison. They want to close waymart to squeeze more mental health funding from the people. You people wanna know where the tax money is going. Its going to all the fat at the top. Too many chiefs and never enough workers. Jails are always understaffed and dangerous. The workers are just punching bags. All the money goes to all the upper management desk jobs that never worked as a guard and make policys to make guards jobs harder. Get rid of the unit management system they put in place. What a joke that is. They put a counsler and unit mabager on each block. What? That’s what the lutenant is for. Get rid of that and you would save million’s.

      • Tmarie

        i hate to tell you this but your wrong. I am an employee of the Dept of Corrections. 1st of all there isn’t enough Lieutenants to replace counselors and unit managers, second of all the amount of work counselors and unit managers do even if there were enough Lieutenants then your taking them away from security because they would have too much “office work and maintenance with the inmates to do” so now the rest of the prison is at risk, and third the unit managers and other management didn’t get their raises (which by the way was promised to them two years ago and for some more than that) until about 2 months ago! so maybe next time make sure all the facts are correct before commenting. Coming from someone within the system and who is one of the workers being affected by this I am all for change and voicing concerns but make sure its accurate!

      • Check your facts

        Has nothing to do with a Democrat governor. It’s your republican run state house and senate pushing for this.

  • magicmikexxsm

    Did you catch it last night? Just for a second State Sen. John Yudichak, (D) 14th District. let it slip out that their is a new prison built down around the Philly area…….this is a payback to that area from wolf to give the jobs to the people of that area…along with the payback to the teachers union.

    • L

      Are you living in a hole?? The prison is ALREADY Built, the contractors are finishing it up..this prison is why the other 2 closed.

  • Mike

    Feel bad for the prisons closing but the reality is if we are fighting crime like we say we are maybe this is the ribbon in the sky. Less crime would mean less prisons . Is this not what the people want ? Our money has been going into corrections for years I like to think we ar finally seeing the benefit of that. Even if it is as hard as it might seem the corrections in or area has benefits a lot of the years. I believe if they close these prisons we will still have 3 state jails in our area. Thats not even including the federal ones. At least they are not closing the schools

  • TrumpeatsWolfs

    Democrat Gov. Casey built more prisons to lessen the over crowded prisons and to stimulate the economy with more jobs in these depressed areas. Now Democrap Gov Tom Wolfe is going to overcrow prisons and take jobs away from the area. What a failure he is ruining these corrections officers jobs and families lives. I’m sure the banks will love all the foreclosures. A lot more kids will be getting free lunches at school because of jobless parents. Sal val will be getting busy too.

  • jessica

    my father worked in corrections for many years sci retreat and frackville are over populated and sci waymart was a state hospital for those that are the true definition of insani truly hope they make the right decision

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