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Senate Democrats Question State Prison Closings
On January 18, 2017
Harrisburg – January 18, 2016 – Opposed to the potential closure of correctional institutions across Pennsylvania, Sens. Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny), John Blake (D-Lackawanna) and John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) have spearheaded local meetings to examine the impact of facility closures to the region.
Since the recent announcement of upcoming correctional institution closures by the governor, Fontana, Blake and Yudichak have all been vocal critics of the proposed plan. This week, each of the three members spent time at facilities local to their district and at events focused on addressing the issues the potential closures could cause.
“While I support the Wolf Administration’s efforts to cut costs and operate state prisons more efficiently, I’m concerned that this decision is being made hastily and without enough consideration to community and economic impacts,” Fontana said.
“I am also disappointed in the Department of Corrections’ lack of responsiveness about its prison closure decision and selection criteria.”
Blake added, “I had the opportunity to tour SCI Waymart this week and discussed their specialized operations with some of the most dedicated and talented corrections employees in the Commonwealth. While I certainly appreciate the Wolf administration’s efforts to address the significant fiscal constraints in our state budget, decisions about our Corrections facilities are public safety issues. I do not believe that the consequences of closing any state prison have been fully vetted.
“I look forward to continuing our coordinated efforts to protect family-sustaining jobs in our communities. I also look forward to continuing public dialogue on this important matter in our town hall meeting in Carbondale and at upcoming Senate committee hearings.”
During a roundtable discussion at Luzerne County Community College today, Yudichak met with community leaders and advocates to learn more about the potential impact a facility closure would have on safety – for correctional officers working within the system and for those in the community where inmates may be transferred in the future.
“Auditor General DePasquale’s recent audit, that highlights a 10 percent spike in inmate assaults on corrections officers, should be a big red stop sign to Department of Corrections officials who want to close two prisons and push the inmate population over safe operational capacity standards,” said State Senator Yudichak. “The safety and security of the men and women who walk the toughest blocks in Pennsylvania should never become a casualty of tough budget decisions.”
Echoing the concerns of Yudichak at today’s roundtable discussion was Voices of J.O.E., an advocacy group for corrections officers and their families.
“Voices of J.O.E. believes that Governor Wolf should not close any prisons until the impact on corrections officers’ safety is fully understood,” said Don Williams, President of Voices of J.O.E. “The rush to cut costs may jeopardize the safety of a corrections officer on a block if this closure plan is not properly vetted.”