HARRISBURG -- State senators are trying to get the corrections department to delay a decision on closing prisons in Pennsylvania, some possibly here in our area.
Republican and Democratic state senators came together at a public hearing in Harrisburg firing question after question at officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
"Why these five prisons? " asked Sen. David Argall, (R) Schuylkill County.
"Why does it have to be made January 26?" asked Sen. Wayne Fontana, (D) Allegheny County.
"Have you had any direct conversations with those impacted communities that could potentially be affected?" asked Sen. Lisa Baker, (R) Luzerne County.
The man in the hot seat was Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel. At times, the conversation became contentious.
Three of the five prisons chosen for possible closure are in our area, SCI Retreat in Luzerne County, SCI Waymart in Wayne County, and SCI Frackville in Schuylkill County.
Sec. Wetzel says they were selected because of their size. Two prisons in western Pennsylvania were put on the list because it costs more to house inmates there.
"That was the profile we were looking at. You see those three small ones and the two kind of bigger ones but with a unique function but very costly to house inmates," explained Sec. Wetzel.
This public hearing was put together by state senators in an attempt to delay the corrections department's announcement planned for Thursday. That's when it expects to name which two prisons will close.
"Is your commitment still as originally noted to announce the two prison closings this week?" asked Sen. Argall.
"As of today, yes," Wetzel replied.
Governor Tom Wolf says the state can safely close two prisons because there are fewer inmates around the state.
He also says that prison workers affected by the closures will be offered jobs at other state prisons.