Harrisburg, October 15, 2018 – Today, the Pennsylvania Senate unanimously concurred with changes made by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to Senate Bill 748, a bipartisan bill which establishes a clear process for consideration of proposed closures of state correctional institutions by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) and barracks operated by the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP).
“Almost two years ago, we received notice that SCI-Retreat and two other state correctional institutions in northeastern Pennsylvania were on the list of state correctional institutions that were being considered for closure. I was proud then of how northeastern Pennsylvania made their voices heard and helped save these prisons from closing, and I am proud that we have been able to pass bipartisan legislation that ensures an open and transparent process when considering any future closure of a public safety facility,” said Senator John Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon).
On January 6, 2017, the 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 that announcement, Senators Argall, Baker, Brooks, Fontana and Yudichak worked with community leaders and the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association to introduce Senate Bill 748.
Senate Bill 748 requires the DOC or the PSP to notify state and local stakeholders, including local lawmakers at least three months before a planned facility closure announcement. The DOC or PSP must then provide a thorough review of impacts that the proposed closure could have, which includes holding a public hearing in the county where the facility is located. A written report must be produced detailing the recommendations from the stakeholders to the Governor and leaders of the General Assembly. After the written report is submitted, and the DOC or PSP elects to close a public safety facility, they must announce that closure to federal, state and local elected officials where the facility is located, to the employee labor organizations representing employees of the facility, and to the managerial employees of the public safety facility. A public safety facility may close no sooner than four months from the announcement.
“We appreciate the support of the Northeast Legislative Delegation, led by Senator Argall in working to get Senate Bill 748 passed. Our local members made their voices heard in January 2017 which helped to prevent the loss of thousands of jobs in the northeast region and today we are sending a bill to Governor Wolf that ensures that any future closure of an SCI will get a thorough and transparent review process prior to any announcement being made,” said Jason Bloom, President of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association.
“Any closure of a public safety facility can cause devastating impacts to the state and local economy as well as creating stressful situations for those employed at these facilities. By taking the time to thoroughly review the impact that a proposed closure can have, we are ensuring that all voices are heard prior to any decision being made,” added Senator Yudichak.
The bill will now go to Governor Wolf for his signature.