The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


January 23, 2013

Readers' Forum 1-23 | Many questions, but few answers

— I’m a former employee of SCI-Cresson. I’m confused how this prison became “antiquated” overnight. When it was opened in 1987, millions of dollars were pumped into it to provide a safe, secure facility for staff and inmates alike.

Two new cell blocks were constructed, along with extensive renovations.

During my tenure (2001-06), more renovations and updates continued, and funds were secured to build a new cell block to provide maximum-security housing and allow for increased population.

Are there areas that are antiquated? Sure. This was known when it reopened. These areas are utilized for what they can safely provide – mostly, nonviolent offenders.

What’s the real reason this facility (located atop the Alleghenies in a remote, yet easily accessible, location) is closing? And the rush?

I watched Department of Corrections  Secretary John Wetzel’s press conference. He stated the decision was not just financial and that Gov. Tom Corbett’s first question was the impact on staff. Really?

The majority of the conference was focused on finances. Wetzel talked about populations “trending” down. Trends are just that – they change – possibly “old facilities that don’t meet our needs” will be needed again.

Who would spend millions of taxpayers’ dollars (many this fiscal year) on a facility to close?

SCI-Pittsburgh was closed – it also was antiquated and replaced by a new facility. Shortly after, it was re-renovated and re-opened.

Wouldn’t it be prudent to give employees and taxpayers some answers before pushing forward? Unless, of course, you don’t want them to have the answers.

The press conference can be viewed by going to

Colleen Spicher


Nonviolent path was King’s choosing

I celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday because MLK’s life and death reminds me that we must choose how we respond to senseless violence. We can choose to spend trillions of dollars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Mali and Algeria eradicating terrorists.

After the senseless 9/11 violence and a decade of responding abroad through the lens of fear, we are tired and still fearful.

Our nation has the world’s greatest arsenal of nuclear weapons, but after Sandy Hook, we must still choose how to respond to our fears at home. If guards in our schools and places of worship are equipped with the latest weapons, will our children be safe and risk-free from senseless violence? Should we travel a different road in responding to our fear? Is this the best way to spend our limited national resources?

I celebrate MLK’s life because he chose to travel a different road, a nonviolent one paved with hard sayings such as: “It was said, an eye for an eye ... but I say love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” (Jesus) “Do not repay anyone evil for evil ... but overcome evil with good.” (Apostle Paul)

It is not an easy road without risks, fear, suffering and death. Those who go down this lonely road may not see results in their lifetimes. Some may choose to respond through their lens of fear by buying more ammunition. I choose to ponder the lasting significance of Martin Luther King’s life on Inauguration Day.

Paul Lehman


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What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

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