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Closing 2 Prisons Will Save Pa. $23 Million Next Year

Pennsylvania will save an estimated $23 million next fiscal year with the closure of two older state prisons and the opening of a new facility.

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania will save an estimated $23 million next fiscal year with the closure of two older state prisons and the opening of a new facility.

Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel announced Wednesday that state prisons in Cresson, Cambria County, and Greensburg, Westmoreland County, would be shuttered by the end of June. The two facilities will be replaced with a new state prison scheduled to open at Brenner Township in Centre County.

 

Staff and inmates at the two prisons targeted for closure will be transferred to the other 25 existing facilities in the state system and to the new prison, Wetzel said. No layoffs are expected.

This move isn’t just a financial move,” Wetzel said. “It’s also an improvement to the facilities and it’s a safer, more secure operation.

The Cresson facility opened in 1913 and costs an average of $103 per inmate per day to operate.  The Greensburg facility opened in 1969 and costs an average of $110 per inmate per day to operate, the highest per diem cost within the state corrections system.

By comparison, the new prison in Brenner Township will cost an estimated $85 per inmate per day.

The department recently announced 450 fewer inmates during 2012, only the third time in four decades that the system has seen a decline in population.

Wetzel said that decrease figured into the decision to close the two older facilities as the new prison was brought online.

This is a responsible, conservative plan to replace capacity at a time when our population is trending down,” Wetzel said.

Corrections Department staff was meeting on Wednesday morning with heads of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association, the union representing the 9,500 workers in the state prison system.

Roy Pinto, president of the PSCOA, said in a statement the union was ready to work with the state, but expressed concern that the closures were premature.

“This decision is based on a mammoth assumption that Pennsylvania’s prison population will steadily decline after decades of increases,” he said. “If these prisons are closed, the only thing certain is it will hurt thousands of families and devastate the local economies in those areas.”

There are roughly 2,200 inmates and 800 staff at the two facilities to be closed, while the new prison in Centre County will house about 2,000 inmates and will require about 500 staff.

There are another 700 open positions in the state system, the result of a hiring freeze implemented last year, Wetzel said, enough to reshuffle staff without requiring layoffs.

The closures are the first since the state shuttered SCI Pittsburgh in 2007. That facility was later re-opened in 2009.

The two closed facilities will cost about $5 million annually in maintenance and upkeep.

ron January 15, 2013 at 05:01 PM
Do less prisons mean more criminals on the streets. Funny everyone is all excited about controlling guns and inanimate objects but no one talks about people control something that actually saves lives. Society has to start treating criminals justly instead of slaping them on the wrist and saying behave.
Amend January 15, 2013 at 09:41 PM
The prison population in the state of PA went from about 7-8,000 inmates in 1980 to about 45,000 in 2009. We're hardly being soft on crime with statistics like that. More prisons aren't the answer.
ron January 16, 2013 at 04:35 AM
I kind of agree with you. But i believe we are very soft on crime that involves violence and repeat offenders. we are obsessed with things like drugs, alcohol and prostitution. I dont condone any of these things but i do think prison cells should be left open for those whom hurt others not themselves. When i read about someone killing or badly hurting someone and then see they where jailed before for murder or attempted murder or had hurt many people before it makes me sick that we allow them to walk the streets but lock up people whom do things that would only hurt themselves.
wasted time again January 16, 2013 at 05:46 AM
Lets see... headline reads closing prisons to save money... first thought is why would we do that? It seems rather absurd to close prisons to save money and put more criminals on the streets. Does it not? Especially right now as we are facing increasingly higher rates of violence in our communities. But the actual story is that a new and more efficient prison is opening up and replacing two older prisons that are costlier to run. Had the headline been a little more representive of the real story, I would not have read it because I believe that this is just regular progression of things. While it is important in the grand scheme of things, I would consider it a non issue for me to read unless it was a sunday morning and I was relaxing over a coffee and toast.
Amend January 16, 2013 at 01:13 PM
@Ron- you and I are on the same page. Thanks for tge response.

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