HARRISBURG -- Three state prisons in our area on a list for possible closing will remain open, according to the governor's office.
Governor Tom Wolf's office said the only prison closing is SCI Pittsburgh.
The union official representing corrections officers in our area is sad to hear SCI Pittsburgh will close, but he also says hundreds of corrections officers from northeastern Pennsylvania are relieved that the prisons where they work will stay open.
"This is absolutely great news for northeastern Pennsylvania and the prisons in northeastern Pennsylvania," said Mark Truszkowski, state corrections officers association.
SCI Waymart in Wayne County, SCI Frackville in Schuylkill County, and SCI Retreat in Luzerne County will all remain open.
At a news conference at Senator John Yudichak's office Thursday morning in Nanticoke, union leaders met with lawmakers, reacting to the Department of Corrections' announcement.
"I'm just thankful for the coordinated effort that we had, starting with the employees we had at SCI Retreat, their families, their friends, their neighbors," said Rep. Gerald Mullery, (D) Luzerne County.
Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections announced 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. SCI Pittsburgh and SCI Mercer are also on the list.
The corrections department says all employees at the prisons that close will be able to transfer to other facilities.
SCI Retreat, near Hunlock Creek, is Newport Township's biggest employer, with more than 400 workers. It also provides roughly $1 million in tax revenue to the township and Luzerne County.
State senators held a hearing Monday, trying to get the Department of Corrections to reconsider the closing decision.
"I think the meeting we had on Monday in Harrisburg made a difference," said Sen. John Yudichak, (D) Luzerne County. "I think the voices of local communities and local leaders told the tale of how important these prisons are to the economy."
The state announced Thursday that only one prison -- SCI Pittsburgh -- will close.
Now, lawmakers want to make sure the next time the Department of Corrections plans to close a prison that the process includes public input.
"We need to ensure that we have an open, transparent process, that in the future, all those voices can be heard," said Sen. Lisa Baker, (R) Luzerne County.
The state says that closing a larger prison such as SCI Pittsburgh means about$ 81 million in savings. That's about the same amount that would have been saved by closing two smaller prisons.
Lawmakers requested a public hearing with the DOC but state corrections officials would not have one because, they said, it was not a part of the protocol when closing a prison.
"We need to ensure that we have a process in the future that protects our community," said Sen. Baker.
That could change. A senator from Pittsburgh wrote up a bill that would compel a, "local public hearing" before the Department of Corrections can close a prison.
Senator Baker supports the bill.
"So in the future, all of those voices can be heard."
Voices like Emma Everett, a waitress at Stooky's BBQ. She says corrections officers from SCI Retreat near Hunlock Creek often call in for lunch.
"When they do, we also get very large orders, so it's nice to see them come in, they're always really friendly, too," said Everett.
A prison closure at SCI Retreat in Luzerne County could have meant less money for Everett to earn. She thinks the bill is a good idea because it would give decision makers more time to address the full impact of a prison closure.
"The people's voice does need to be heard, and I feel like sometimes it's not, the way the government's run nowadays," Everett added.
Now, the corrections officers union plans to work with legislators to pass the bipartisan bill.
"This bill is going to be dramatic, it's something we really need in the Commonwealth Of Pennsylvania. We need to have a transparent process," said Mark Truszkowski, State Corrections Officers Association.
State senators ended up having their own public hearing and had officials with the Department of Corrections there to testify. They believe that hearing helped convince state officials to keep the three prisons in our area open.