The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections announced Wednesday that it will be closing two older Pennsylvania state prisons and in their place, open the newly constructed State Correctional Institution at Benner Township — a facility located near SCI Rockview in Centre County.
The closures of SCI Cresson in Cambria County and SCI Greensburg in Westmoreland County are expected to save taxpayers $23 million in the fiscal year 2013-14, according to a press release issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said in a media release that the employees and inmates at both prisons would be transferred throughout the prison system.
“In anticipation of these closings, I implemented a hiring freeze within the department in order to be able to provide affected employees with an opportunity for employment elsewhere within the state prison system,” Wetzel said in the release.
Department of Corrections Deputy Press Secretary Sue Bensinger said there are about 700 positions across the state and 564 positions at SCI Benner Township that need to be filled.
Bensinger said all employees affected will be offered a position somewhere, whether it be at the new institution or another institution in Pennsylvania.
Bensinger also said there is a need for the closures because the older facilities were less efficient and not well equipped enough to handle the amount of inmates in a safe and operational manner.
“[The closures] allow us to make the transition to a brand new facility and close two that were in working order, but weren’t optimal operational facilities,” Bensinger said. “Those institutions were old, chopped-up housing units that did not allow for the line of sight that Benner Township does.”
Bensinger said SCI Benner Township will provide more safety and treatment space, and will be brighter, cleaner and more cost-effective to operate on a day-to-day basis than the other prisons.
SCI Benner Township will be able to house 2,000 inmates, while SCI Cresson was able to house about 1,400 inmates and SCI Greensburg was able to accommodate fewer than 1,000 inmates, Bensinger said.
A majority of the inmates from the older institutions will be transferred to SCI Benner Township, while some will be moved to a new 300-bed housing unit at SCI Pine Grove in Indiana County, Bensinger said.
“We do not expect a need to reopen either of these prisons,” Wetzel said, according to the release. “We are beginning to see a continued decrease in the inmate population because of internal improvements and recently implemented prison reform legislation.”