Senate committees to review possible state prison closures

HARRISBURG – Three Senate committees will hold a joint public hearing to review the Wolf administration’s decision to potentially close two state prisons.

The Senate Majority and Democratic Policy Committees and Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on Monday, January 23 at 9:30 a.m. in Hearing Room No. 1 of the North Office Building in the state Capitol.

On January 6, the Department of Corrections announced that they would close two state prisons in June. Five state prisons are currently under consideration, including SCI Frackville, SCI Mercer, SCI Pittsburgh, SCI Retreat and SCI Waymart.

The administration is scheduled to make its final decision as to which two prisons will close on January 26.

The committees’ goal is to look at various aspects of the proposed closings including cost to taxpayers, public safety, transparency, prison overpopulation and the impact on local communities.

“We need to put everything on the table and figure out how and why the administration chose the five prisons they did,” Senate Majority Policy Committee Chairman David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) said. “We want to bring transparency to this process that could have a major impact on a lot of people.”

“While we have achieved the goal of dramatically reducing Pennsylvania’s inmate population, prison closures will affect prison staff members and many people in the surrounding communities,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Stewart J. Greenleaf (R-Bucks/Montgomery). “I will continue to pursue policies that prioritize rehabilitation over incarceration for non-violent offenders, but we must approach possible prison closures with caution.”

“I respect the Wolf Administration’s efforts to improve government efficiency and reduce state spending,” said Senate Democratic Policy Committee Chair Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton/Lehigh). “This joint bipartisan hearing is a key step in the decision-making process as we discuss all factors with stakeholders.”

“I applaud Governor Wolf for breaking from past practice by presenting a transparent timeline, soliciting public input, and working with the legislature to ensure any prison closures are done safely and efficiently,” Senate Judiciary Committee Democratic Chairman Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) said. “My colleagues and I look forward to conducting a thorough examination of the Governor’s decision and providing our input.”

More information, including the agenda and testimony, will be posted to the Senate Majority Policy Committee’s website here.