Nanticoke, January 25, 2018 — State Senator John Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon) hosted a press conference today at Morris Family Restaurant commemorating the one-year anniversary of Governor Tom Wolf announcing that three northeastern Pennsylvania prisons (SCI-Retreat, SCI- Frackville, and SCI-Waymart) would remain open.
“Last January, northeastern Pennsylvania was blindsided by the announcement that SCI-Retreat, SCI-Waymart, and SCI-Frackville faced possible closure and the loss of over 1,500 family sustaining jobs,” said Senator John Yudichak.
“I am proud of how northeastern Pennsylvania stood strong in the face of adversity, and I thank Governor Wolf for listening to the people of northeastern Pennsylvania who fought to save their prisons and their communities,” added Senator Yudichak.
On January 6, 2017, the Department of Corrections (DOC) announced that they would close two prisons from a short list of five and that a decision on which prisons to close would come on January 26. Ultimately, only one prison, SCI-Pittsburgh, was selected to close by the DOC.
After the announcement, a group of bipartisan legislators worked with community leaders to introduce legislation (SB 748/HB 1606) which establishes a clear process before facilities may be closed. While that legislation remains in committee, a similar provision was successfully added to budget-related legislation to require DOC to hold at least one public hearing at least 30 days prior to a closure in Fiscal Year 2017-2018.
“A closure of SCI-Retreat, SCI-Frackville, and SCI-Waymart would have had a devastating economic impact to northeastern Pennsylvania,” said Representative Gerald Mullery (D-119). “I was proud of how we all came together with one voice to protect our jobs and our communities from any closures, and I echo Senator Yudichak’s statement that we need to pass legislation that will help alleviate the stresses that are caused when an announcement is made to close a state police barracks or state correctional institution,” added Representative Gerald Mullery.
At today’s press conference, Voices of J.O.E. President Don Williams, whose son was killed in the line of duty as a correctional officer at U.S. Penitentiary-Canaan in 2013, and Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis expressed serious reservations about overcrowding at other facilities and the impact of closures on the safety of correctional officers.
Luzerne County Manager Dave Pedri and Paul Czapracki, Newport Township President of the Board of Commissioners also attended the hearing as did Dr. Ronald Grevera, Superintendent of the Greater Nanticoke Area School District. In Luzerne County and Newport Township, a closure of SCI-Retreat alone may have amounted to a $57.3 million hit to the economy. The Greater Nanticoke Area School District similarly estimated the impact of proposed closure on the school district at $1.6 million in lost revenue.
The press conference also featured Mark Truszkowski of PSCOA and Katy Scott, a spouse of an SCI-Retreat employee, who conveyed the devastating impact of the proposed closures on employees and their families.