Mercer on list of possible state prison closings - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Mercer on list of possible state prison closings

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SCI Mercer SCI Mercer
HARRISBURG, Pa. -

The State Correctional Institution in Mercer County is on a list of five other Pennsylvainia prisons, two of which are being considered for possible closure.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections announced on Thursday cost cutting measures that would close two prisons and cut the number of inmates in half by June of this year.

The department has named five prisons being considered, including SCI Mercer, which currently employs 413 people and houses 1,404 inmates.

Other facilities under consideration include SCI Retreat in Luzerne County, SCI Frackville in Schuylkll County, SCI Waymart in Wayne County and SCI Pittsburgh in Allegheny County.

“We have implemented a variety of cost savings initiatives over the past several years yet we are again in the position where the Department of Corrections must make significant reductions because of the dire budget forecast,” said DOC Secretary JohnWetzel. “The most significant reduction we can make as an agency is a prison closure.”

"Our commonwealth faces a serious budget deficit that means we have limited funds to provide the services the people of Pennsylvania expect from their government and we must make government more efficient to avoid broad cuts to education, job creation programs and social services for the most vulnerable," said Governor Tom Wolfe in a statement issued by his office.

The Department of Corrections has prepared a list of pro's and con's in its recommendations for each of the five facilities.

Closing SCI Mercer would save the state an estimated $46 million per year.

In addition, Mercer has a minimum security population and staff that would be easily absorbed by other nearby facilities, causing the least amount of disruption.

Also, while the majority of Pennsylvania's prison population is from the eastern part of the state, SCI Mercer is in the western part of the state.

Reasons for not closing Mercer include the lowest inmate costs per year, as well as the expenditure of nearly $20 million on upgrades at the prison, which was built in 1978.

Finally, the DOC says closing Mercer would have the third highest impact on staff and imates, out of all five facilities under consideration

Three of the prisons are more than half a century old. SCI Retreat was built in 1938, Waymart opened in 1912, and Pittsburgh is the oldest, having been in operation since 1882.

The decision, expected on January 26, will be based on the ages, sizes, locations, operational costs, specialty functions of the prisons, as well as economic impact on the affected communities.

The Department of Corrections says every affected employee will be offered a position elsewhere in the department.

The Department of Corrections recommentations can be seen below

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