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.