NANTICOKE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The proposed closure of SCI Retreat is sending shock-waves through the community in Luzerne County. Monday, guards came together with local lawmakers for a town hall meeting at the American Legion in Nanticoke to rally support for keeping the center open. State Senator John Yudichak, says this isn’t the first time SCI Retreat has faced a potential closing.
“We were in this battle two years ago, we were able to keep the prison open. The Luzerne County Delegation rallied around, the community rallied around, most of all the voices of these workers – it rung loudest,” he said.
If SCI Retreat does close, inmates will be sent to other surrounding facilities, or released on parole. Officials say most of the prisons in the area are either at or close to being at full capacity, which can be dangerous for the prison guards.
“You see units that are over populated by inmates, particularly the restricted units. That can be very dangerous. Again, we lost a CO in Somerset as a result of poor staffing. And so these can really create a dangerous situation inside the walls,” he said.
Larry Blackwell, President of the PA State Corrections Officers Association, says that releasing inmates on parole may not be the best solution either. PSCO asked the Department of Corrections to do an outside external investigation on the parole system.
“We think that you know, there’s parole violators that are getting out of prison and that are murdering people. You know, they reported 93 in 2018. So you know we need to take a closer look on are we just trying to fast track people out of prison,” he said.
The closure of SCI Retreat would also mean a transfer for the prison guards who work at the facility. Guards would be transferred to a facility within a 65 mile radius, which could add up to an hour of time to commute for the workers. But SCI Retreat is not the only facility facing a proposal to close. The State Correctional Department is also proposing to close down White Haven Center.
“When you take four hundred employees in addition to the four hundred employees up at White Haven Center, the closure of two facilities could wipe out eight hundred and forty jobs in Luzerne County. Over a hundred and five million dollar in economic loss. Each and every year. We can’t sustain that kind of loss, we have to fight,” Yudichak said.
“That will directly effect the community because people are gonna have to decide whether they want to stay and keep doing that drive or they’re ultimately going to move out of the area,” Blackwell said.
In October, a mandatory hearing will be held in Nanticoke where workers can further voice their concerns and potentially fight back against the closures of the two facilities.
The location and date for the meeting in October has not yet been decided.