Harrisburg – January 25, 2017 – State Sen. Wayne D. Fontana (D-Allegheny) today introduced legislation that would require the Department of Corrections to hold a local public hearing before it could close a prison.

“Closing prisons will drastically impact prison workers, rehabilitative programs, community security and local economies,” Fontana said. “There is no excuse for not accepting and considering community input as a significant factor in its decision to close prisons.”

Fontana’s bill (Senate Bill 220) would mandate that the department hold a public hearing in the municipality where the prison is located before reaching its decision. The department would also need to provide at least 30 days public notice about the hearing.

The department’s decision on possibly closing SCI-Pittsburgh is expected tomorrow. Fontana has criticized the department for rushing its decision, ignoring community input and not factoring in some of the important rehabilitative services that are unique to the Pittsburgh facility.

“I am very disappointed in how the department handled this prison closing process,” Fontana said. “Rather than welcoming community input, the department ignored it.

“Rather than being responsive to questions and concerns raised by local citizens, prison workers and elected officials, the department chose to make its decision in secrecy.”

The Brookline lawmaker said he tried to schedule a state Senate Policy Committee hearing in Pittsburgh on the possible closing of SCI-Pittsburgh, but corrections officials refused to participate.

“While consolidating some prison facilities might make good fiscal sense on paper, we need to ensure that we’re making the best decisions based on both the human and economic impact — and I believe my proposal would open the door to do just that,” Fontana said. 

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