Senators to discuss closures at SCI Cresson, Greensburg

Local legislators plan to fight the closing of the State Correctional Institution at Cresson even though the first prisoners were transferred from the facility earlier this week.

State Sen. John N. Wozniak, D-Cambria, said he plans to attend the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday to discuss the impact the closure of SCI Cresson will have on the local economy and community.

Wozniak blasted officials for the clandestine way in which SCI Cresson and SCI Greensburg in neighboring Westmoreland County were selected for decommission.

“Obviously, the secretive way it was handled and the cagey way it was announced make everyone suspicious of how the plan would stand up to public scrutiny,” Wozniak said.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, granted Wozniak committee member privileges for the hearing.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate in the hearing. The department’s plan has raised a lot of questions in my district and I’m looking forward to posing them to the decision makers,” Wozniak said.

Wozniak and Rep. Gary Haluska, D-Patton, are expected to attend a Jan. 31 meeting at the Cresson Volunteer Fire Company to discuss the prison closure.

Haluska implored prison employees and residents to contact Gov. Tom Corbett to voice their concerns over the prison closure, expected to be completed by June.

“The guards and other employees who work at SCI Cresson and the people who live in this community who depend on those jobs and the economic activity the prison generates,” Haluska said. “None of them had any say in this decision. They didn’t even get a warning.

“That’s not how responsible and responsive government is supposed to work.”

A total of about 800 employees at both prisons will be displaced, officials said. Employees are eligible to transfer to other state prisons.

The 2,400 prisoners will be transferred throughout the state prison system, including the newly constructed SCI Benner facility in Centre County.

Haluska said he would listen to residents’ concerns and fight to keep the prison open.

“I know the community is hoping this closing is not inevitable, but in any case, we are going to make sure this administration hears the people of Pennsylvania, even if it refuses to listen to them,” Haluska said.