NANTICOKE – January 6, 2017 − Senator John T. Yudichak, (D-Luzerne/Carbon), strongly condemned a proposal made today by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to close two state correctional facilities and displace over one thousand state workers.
Five state prisons are under consideration for closure, including three in northeastern Pennsylvania – SCI-Retreat in Luzerne County, SCI-Waymart in Wayne County and SCI-Frackville in Schuylkill County.
“With an unemployment rate of 6.3% in Luzerne County that continues to climb higher than both the state and national average, what sense does it make to add to the economic distress of northeastern Pennsylvania by closing state prisons,” said Senator John Yudichak.
The State Correctional Institute at Retreat is the largest employer in Newport Township with four hundred employees. In addition to devastating job losses, Newport Township would also lose significant tax revenue that would further exacerbate the community’s challenging financial condition.
“The proposal to close SCI-Retreat demonstrates a short-sighted fiscal policy that will unfairly punish hard working state employees and deal a devastating blow to the taxpayers of Newport Township and Luzerne County,” said Senator Yudichak.
Senator Yudichak will work closely with colleagues in both parties, including Senators David Argall and Lisa Baker as well as Representative Gerald Mullery, to avert a premature, ill-advised closure of SCI-Retreat, SCI-Frackville, and SCI-Waymart.
Senator Argall, Senator Baker and Senator Yudichak recently voted for legislation that would have required public hearings before the closure of any state facility. The measure was advanced to ensure transparency in the process and to give a voice to the taxpayers and workers who could be negatively impacted by a closure of a state facility. The legislation passed the Senate, but failed in the House of Representatives. Work has already begun among area legislators and PSCOA, the union representing corrections officers and other prison employees, to call on the Department of Corrections to delay any decision on the closure of state prisons until a formal, public hearing can be held.
“Significant economic decisions are being made without legislative or public input thrusting us into a situation where within twenty days a thousand workers will have their lives turned upside down and the economy of northeastern Pennsylvania will take a major hit,” said Senator Yudichak.
“No prison worker should have to choose between uprooting their family and finding a new job,” said Rep. Mullery. “I will not support any plan that balances the state budget on the backs of the workers of northeastern Pennsylvania.”