HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) According to a release from the governor’s office, Governor Tom Wolf Friday announced that he has completed his review of the Recommendation for the Closure of the State Correctional Institution at Retreat final report and is calling for the full closure of SCI Retreat.
This comes after the DOC released its recommendation to close the facility earlier this week.
“The SCI Retreat closure report was developed through a transparent, inclusive process and provides a thorough, straightforward, facts-based review of the realities surrounding the facility’s financial needs and the effects a closure could have on the staff, inmates, and the community in regard to public safety. These factors indicate to me that closure is the right decision,” Gov. Wolf said. “I understand that a closure is tough on the employees, the community and the inmates and their families. The DOC staff will work to ensure a smooth transition for all involved and I will be in touch with DOC executive staff throughout the closure process.”
DOC staff will be on site to help employees with relocation to a DOC facility within a 65-mile radius of SCI Retreat, which is in Hunlock Creek, Luzerne County. There are six DOC facilities within the 65-mile radius.
Gov. Wolf pointed to several factors inherent in his decision to order the closure:
- The DOC continues to experience a significant decrease in the inmate population. In fact, a reduction of 1,900 inmates in fiscal year 2018-19 was the largest one-year decrease in the department’s history – all at a time when crime rates continue to fall.
- Current projections anticipate a continued decline in the prison population over the next five years while DOC is also faced with the challenge of a projected budget deficit of approximately $140 million for fiscal year 2019-20.
- All employees will be offered continued employment at another SCI within 65 miles of SCI Retreat.
- All employees are provided support through the utilization of SEAP, COVER, and POWER.
- The closure will not affect the safety or security of the staff, inmates, and public.
- The DOC can continue to prioritize the safety of staff, inmates and the community in addition to remaining a good steward of taxpayer money.
“As a result of the significant budget deficit and continued decrease in the inmate population, among other factors, it would be fiscally irresponsible to not close the prison,” Gov. Wolf said.
Full annual net savings will not be realized until after a full year of closure. Under Act 133 there is a minimum four-month closure process so SCI retreat will close no earlier than May 17th. After the facility closes, it is expected that the DOC will save approximately $40 million annually.
Department of Corrections Executive Deputy Secretary Tabb Bickell, who oversaw the implementation of the closure review process outlined in Act 133, noted that the next step in the process involves negotiations with labor unions. When those are completed, SCI Retreat employees will be given a survey to indicate their first and second relocation choices. Employees will have 60 days to return the survey to department officials. After completed surveys are received, employee relocation will begin and is likely to continue up to the final closure date.
Prior to employee relocation, the prison’s inmate population will be gradually relocated to other DOC facilities. Inmate relocation decisions will be based on each inmate’s custody level and treatment and medical needs.
The DOC has created a dedicated email account (firstname.lastname@example.org) and a toll-free number (888-316-8950) for staff, inmate families and others seeking additional information.
We will have much more on this unfolding situation on later editions of Eyewitness News.