NANTICOKE, August 2, 2017 — Senator John T. Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon) urged the General Assembly to approve reforms of Pennsylvania’s prison closure process as quickly as possible. Last week, the Senate passed House Bill 118, an omnibus Administrative Code bill, that included language requiring the Department of Corrections (DOC) to hold at least one local public hearing before any state correctional institution may be closed in the coming fiscal year.
“Closing a correctional facility affects a family’s livelihood, the economic viability of a community, and the public safety of all Pennsylvanians,” said Senator Yudichak. “A decision of this magnitude should not be made on intuition, speculative benefits, and with undue haste.”
Although the measure is limited in duration, the House of Representatives is encouraged to approve it whenever they return to session. Meanwhile, comprehensive reform legislation has been introduced in the Senate and has been referred to committee.
SB 748 –“The Public Safety Facilities Act”— was the result of months of bipartisan collaboration between Senators Yudichak, David Argall, Lisa Baker, Michele Brooks, and Wayne Fontana. The Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association (PSCOA) also provided input as the bipartisan group drafted SB 748. The bill establishes a formal process for a governor’s administration to propose, evaluate, and then decide to close any public safety facilities owned or leased by the Pennsylvania State Police or the DOC.
“Decisions that affect the safety of corrections officers—who patrol the toughest blocks in the criminal justice system—should be weighed and considered through a formal and transparent process,” said Jason Bloom, President of PSCOA. “Pennsylvania should follow the lead of other states and enact SB 748 before any other prisons are placed on the chopping block.”
“Requiring a local public hearing before a prison is closed is an important interim reform to avoid the needless anxiety and uncertainty that occurred earlier this year,” said Senator Yudichak. “However, comprehensive reform can only be achieved through permanent legislation and that remains our end goal because it ensures that any decisions to close prisons or state police barracks are carefully vetted to avoid unnecessary harm to local communities or state employees and their families.”