NEWPORT TOWNSHIP -- State lawmakers in our area are stepping up efforts to save a prison they fear may be at the top of the list to close. In just two weeks, the state plans to announce which two prisons will close.
One of the prisons on the list is SCI Retreat, near Hunlock Creek. It's Newport Township's biggest employer, with more than 400 workers. It also provides roughly $1 million in tax revenue to the township and Luzerne County.
On Wednesday, lawmakers toured the prison to learn more about it. They're trying to understand the benefits of keeping SCI Retreat open.
Their visit comes just days after the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections announced that on January 26, it will choose two state prisons to close from a list of five.
"We learned some very important information. 50 percent of the inmates are classified as mental health inmates. That's very important," said Sen. John Yudichak, who wants the corrections department to delay its announcement so there can be more public input.
But the Department of Corrections tells Newswatch 16 the date is final.
"We need to have those public hearings. We need to go through the budget process. We need to move this decision beyond Jan. 26," Sen. Yudichak said.
Of the five prisons being considered for closure, a list from the Department of Corrections shows that SCI Retreat has the most issues.
Retreat has the lowest number of employees and inmates who would be impacted by a closure. The prison has had flooding problems due to its location along the Susquehanna River. And the only road leading to the prison crosses a bridge that needs to be repaired.
Still, many people in the area hope, for the sake of the community, it stays open.
"Newport Township and Luzerne County, they rely on the people that work there, as far as their income and the money they spend and all," said one man.
Since the Department of Corrections will not have public hearings, some senators are planning their own senate hearing in Harrisburg on January 23. That's just three days before the Department of Corrections makes its decision.
They're asking state corrections officials to attend her hearing, as well as community members who could be impacted.