PA touts prison closures, but keeps building new ones

POSTED: Thursday, January 10, 2013, 10:52 AM

Pennsylvania's Corrections Secretary John Wetzel is trumpeting $35 million in annual savings to be achieved via the closures of two state prisons, SCI Cresson and SCI Greensburg, announced this week. But critics of the state's prison complex, which has seen its population quintuple in the past 30 years or so, are questioning the savings, especially as the state continues construction on two new prisons in Montgomery County, at a total cost of $400 million. The closures of Cresson and Greenburg, which together house about 2,400 inmates, are offset by the opening of a new, 2,000-bed, $200 million institution called SCI Benner, while the two new Montgomery County prisons will theoretically replace SCI Graterford.

Decarcerate PA called on Gov. Corbett to stop construction adding further beds to the state prison system — since, historically, the experience in the state has been, "If it gets built, it gets filled." The prison population is now around 51,000, which exceeds the designed capacity of the state institutions.

“We certainly support the move to close these two prisons – particularly SCI Cresson, which is under federal investigation for its poor treatment of people with mental illness,” Decarcerate PA’s Matthew Pillischer said in a statement. “Since the DOC is finally recognizing that Pennsylvania does not need more prisons, we hope their next step will be to cancel the unnecessary $400 million construction of two new prisons in Montgomery County.”

Posted by Samantha Melamed @ 10:52 AM