The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

January 15, 2013

State Senate panel will meet on decision to close SCI-Cresson

HARRISBURG — The state Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday to explore how the Department of Corrections identified two state prisons selected for closing, Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, chairman of the judiciary committee, said.

The Greensburg and Cresson state prisons, with about 2,400 inmates combined, will be closed in the next six months. Many of the inmates will move to the newly built Benner state prison, a 2,000-bed facility near State College that was once envisioned as a place to help house the rapidly growing prison population.

Greenleaf, a Republican from Montgomery County, said that the hearing was chiefly ordered in response to questions that were raised by state Sen. Kim Ward, a Republican from Westmoreland County, whose district includes SCI-Greensburg.

“Sen. Ward has raised legitimate questions” about how Cresson and Greensburg were selected and the community notification process employed by the Department of Corrections, Greenleaf said.  

About 800 employees will be displaced at Greensburg and Cresson, and they are eligible for about 1,200 open positions at other prisons around the state, he said. Eventually, shifting inmates to Benner from Greensburg and Cresson will save $35 million a year, Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said last week, though the state will be left to figure out what to do with the two properties.

The state now counts more than 51,000 inmates, including about 2,400 in county jails or community correctional centers. The system was designed for about 44,000 but has beds for about 48,000.

Greenleaf said the hearing will also likely delve into how the Department of Corrections came up with its estimate of cost savings associated with the prison closings.

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