HARRISBURG Jan 6 Pennsylvania will close two
state prisons by June 30 to help offset a projected $600 million
revenue shortfall in this year's budget, state officials said on
Pennsylvania is also facing a $1.7 billion structural
deficit next fiscal year. Governor Tom Wolf, whose efforts to
raise taxes have failed since he took office in January 2015,
has vowed to close the deficit through cuts and savings.
"We must make government more efficient to avoid broad cuts
to education, job creation programs and social services for the
most vulnerable," Wolf said in a statement on Friday, explaining
why he "chose to invest in schools - not prisons."
Corrections officials said the affected employees, who will
number between 800 and 1,100 depending on which prisons are
picked, will be offered jobs at one of the 24 remaining prisons
in the system.
The department will also cut in half the capacity of its
Despite cutting costs over the past several years, "We are
again in the position where the Department of Corrections must
make significant reductions because of the dire budget
forecast," Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said in a
He said the candidates for potential closure had been
narrowed to five correctional institutions: SCI Frackville, SCI
Mercer, SCI Retreat, SCI Allegheny and SCI Waymart. The two
selections will be announced on Jan. 26.
Closing the two most expensive prisons, SCI Allegheny in
Pittsburgh and SCI Waymart in the northeastern corner of the
state, would save a total $162 million per year, according to a
Corrections Department analysis document. Closing one of the
other three would save $44 million to $46 million per year.
Waymart treats inmates with serious mental health problems,
and Allegheny provides specialty medical care, including an
oncology unit. Wetzel said closing them would present unique
Pennsylvania's prisons are mainly located in rural areas and
provide good-paying jobs.
Senator John Blake, a Democrat whose district includes
Waymart, vowed to fight any potential closure of the facility
there because of concerns over public safety and the potential
loss of 700 jobs.
(Reporting by David DeKok in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Editing
by Leslie Adler)