Harrisburg – January 6, 2017 − Following the governor’s announcement today that he is considering closing the state Correctional Institute in Pittsburgh by June, state Sen. Wayne D. Fontana (D-Allegheny) released the following statement.

“Decisions of this magnitude cannot and should not be made in haste.  Making a decision to close a prison facility within the next two weeks fits that definition. A decision like this warrants a public discussion within our community among workers, families and Corrections officials.

While I understand the cost to operating these facilities and providing the programs and services within, the cost of such a potential closure reaches far beyond simply closing the door and turning off the lights.

At the end of the day, this is more than just a decision to close a facility — and SCI Pittsburgh is more than just a building.  This decision impacts our prison workers, economy and cuts off the rehabilitative efforts underway in that facility. We must also keep in mind that this facility includes a specialized unit for veterans on whom we cannot turn our backs.

For many Pittsburgh region families, SCI Pittsburgh provides the jobs that sustains them and provides a means to self-sufficiency at a time when our employment rate remains one of the highest in the nation.

For many years the public discussion in the corrections community has been centered around treatment and rehabilitation where possible.  SCI Pittsburgh provides not only housing to inmates but specialized services to inmates who are struggling with substance abuse and addiction issues.  At a time when the worsening opioid epidemic is destroying families and crippling communities across the state, it is alarming that we would potentially close the doors to one of the few facilities that provides the treatment and rehabilitative services for those suffering from addiction.

It’s no secret that Pennsylvania is on shaky financial ground. Between lagging revenue numbers and our growing deficit, the fiscal outlook is bleak.  I understand and support the need to discuss efficiencies and cost saving ideas such as consolidating and streamlining programs and services — but only where it makes sound fiscal, logistical and practical sense.

While consolidating some of these prison facilities might make good fiscal sense on paper, we need to ensure that we’re making the best decisions based on the human impact, which is far more valuable than what lies on any budget spreadsheet.”

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