Prison Closings Draw Fire
Here’s the latest on proposed Pa. prison closings. Local legislators oppose the move, but the Corbett administration says it will save the state money. Some say the haphazard announcement of the news is the real problem.
This is based on Tuesday, January 22 testimony at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Harrisburg.
The Corbett administration had made plans earlier in the year to expedite the “closing prisons in Greensburg and Cresson within six months,” according to the Associated Press.
According to the Associated Press, “More than 51,000 inmates live in Pennsylvania prisons, jail or community correctional centers.” The new facilities would be used to keep up with the growing prison populations in Pennsylvania.
The discussion that was held during the Judiciary Committee meeting focused on the “800 employees” that would need to reshape their lives in light of the closings.
The critics of this plan included both Democrats and Republicans.
According to the Tribune-Democrat, State Senator Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, attributes the lack of communication about the closings to “Pennsylvania’s [in]experience [with]closing prisons and that inexperience likely contributed to bungling by the Department of Corrections when it came to notifying the community and its own employees about the plan to shutter SCI-Cresson and SCI-Greensburg.”
The Corrections Secretary John Wetzel defended the decision to close the prison, but “apologized for the for the manner in which employees learned that they were being displaced.”
Senator Senator Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny) said, “These are major decisions in people’s lives. … I just don’t think we’ve given them the proper time to make a proper decision.”
State Senator John Wozniak (D-Cambria) said, “he may file an injunction to try to delay the prison closings, a move that he doubts will have much lasting effect.”
Corrections Secretary John Wetzel believes after conducting detailed analysis that the prison population is expected to drop over the next three years. “Wetzel said, largely because of new laws that reserve prison beds for the most dangerous criminals and stress rehabilitation for non-violent offenders while diverting them to nonprison settings.”
Union officials claim that these calculations and estimations may be too ambitious. Gary Lightman, solicitor for the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officer Union, said “the state ought to consider adopting the model of community notification employed by the federal government in dealing with events such as the closing of military bases. In those cases, a public announcement of potential closings identifies multiple sites that could be shut. After public comment and studies, the list is winnowed until the final sites pegged for closing are announced.”