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Mo Valley prison set to close

PHILIPSBURG — A federal prison in Clearfield County will be shutting its doors soon.

Earlier this week, The GEO Group Inc., which owns the Moshannon Valley Correctional Facility outside Philipsburg, announced that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has decided to not renew its contract for the prison. The contract expires on March 31.

George C. Zoley, GEO’s chairman and CEO, said in a release, “GEO has operated the Moshannon Valley Correctional Facility under a public-private partnership with the Federal Bureau of Prisons for more than a decade. Federal prison populations in the United States have experienced a decline, more recently as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This decline and other factors may result in future decisions by the Federal Bureau of Prisons to not renew additional BOP contracts. We expect to market the Moshannon Valley Correctional Facility to other federal and state agencies.”

According to its website, the facility, which has been open since 2006, has a capacity of 1,878 prisoners.

Information from authorities indicates it employs 280 people and has a payroll of about $17 million.

When informed of the closure, the Clearfield County commissioners issued a statement saying how disappointed they were with the decision and how they are taking action.

“The commissioners are currently in communication with federal and state officials in the hope of finding a suitable use for the facility with other federal or state agencies.

“We hope that the GEO Group is able to successfully market this great resource so that the facility is able to continue to employ many Clearfield County citizens for years to come.”

In an interview on Friday, Commissioners Chairman John Sobel revealed that U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-15th District, is working through his channels, asking for an extension of several months or a year before the closure.

“This gives folks more time for planning,” Sobel noted.

“These are family sustaining jobs,” Sobel said, adding that people in the area have already “suffered enough” financially with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also on Friday, Senate President Pro Tem Jake Corman, R-Centre, and state Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-Cambria, called on the Wolf administration to help the employees by using existing programs available in the Department of Community and Economic Development and Department of Labor and Industry that are designed to help in “situations such as this.”

“The Wolf administration should waste no time in getting help to the region including a rapid response team that can help these families navigate the state resources available to them including an unemployment system that is already overburdened,” said Corman in a press release.

“I am deeply disheartened at the news of the closing of this facility. I am committed to all individuals affected and will use all my resources to aid those in securing new positions,” Langerholc said.

“The state offers a variety of job training opportunities for employees and can assist the local community in marketing the facility as well as the well-trained workforce to other interested parties. We need to do everything possible to get these services into the hands of these employees as soon as possible.”

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