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Lawmakers Conduct Hearing on Prison Closure

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.

7 comments

  • Wesley

    It’s a shame we get a president that wants to save jobs. Then we have a stupid gov Tom wolf want to cut jobs. I guess raising the gas tax was not enough for Harrisburg to steal.

  • Monica

    My personal opinion is… You and I, as a whole, need to see how many families and businesses that will be affected by the closures. Closer = Loss of jobs = families to be forced to leave the area and seek employment where they are offered OR start over = no money to businesses in the direct areas. It isn’t going to affect your taxes. They stay the same and go up, NOT DOWN… Regardless, please look at the ENTIRE scenerio.

  • Dude

    Local economic impact should not be a primary consideration. Decision should be based on state needs a and costs.

  • PROBLEM SOLVED...YOUR WELCOME.

    Close them all. These town’s local economies are based on tax dollars. This is not a good thing. House the inmates in mine tunnels. The tunnels keep an average temperature of 52 degrees year around. They can eat rats and drink the dripping water.

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