LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Could a closed former state prison in Luzerne County get a new lease on life?

S.C.I Retreat near Nanticoke was closed by the commonwealth in 2020 with 400 local jobs lost.
But now county officials are looking at the former state lock-up for possible use in its corrections system.

State Representative Aaron Kaufer reached out to Luzerne County officials recently asking them to take another look at the possible use of S.CI. Retreat as the new county prison.

The proposal was floated about in the past by other state and local officials but at that time the county opted not to move forward mainly because of cost concerns.

So we wanted to know what has changed with the proposal this time around?

S.C.I. Retreat is empty this Friday as it closed in June of 2020, it’s nearly 1,000 inmates were relocated to other state prisons.

Its 400 employees and staff, most of them corrections officers, were offered positions at other state prisons.
Some took the offer, others did not.

The closing was part of the commonwealth’s cost-cutting measures and consolidations of its’ corrections operations.
State Representative Aaron Kaufer contacted county officials recently to discuss the possibility of using S.C.I Retreat as a new county prison.

The county prison needs major updates and there is talk of building a new facility.

“I think this is an opportunity for us to decide if somehow sci retreat can play a future in the role of corrections for the future of Luzerne county or not,” said Rep. Aaron Kaufer, (r) 120th district))

Kaufer says he has been in contact with officials from the state department of corrections about the possibility. Kaufer says federal recovery funds received by the county, some 120 million dollars could be a game-changer.

“Obviously we have some historic–once in a generation funding to maybe fix up the facility or do something like that,” said Rep. Aaron Carter.

Acting County Manager Romilda Crocamo tells Eyewitness News, the idea will be looked into and in fact, county officials, including Prison Director Mark Rockovich, will tour the SCI Retreat in several weeks.

“There are so many moving parts to this but first Director Rockovich and his staff need to view the facility then we will be making a report to county council,” said Romilda Crocamo, Acting Luzerne County Manager.

But State Senator John Yudichak says S.C.I retreat was looked at for possible use as the county prison, less than two years ago by county officials who opted not to pursue the idea.

“That would be a huge taxpayer burden for the citizens of Luzerne County to take on an additional prison because you would have to keep the water street prison open as a holding facility,” said State Senator John Yudichak – 14th District.

Talk of some new life at SCI retreat is welcome news to Ralph Frank who owns Stookey’s BBQ just up the road from S.C.I.

He says the closure of S.C.I impacted his business.

“I think in general it has gone down a lot of families not just people who worked there would frequent us,” said Ralph Frank, Owner, Stookey’s BBQ.

Eyewitness News spoke to several county council members who said they are willing to take a second look at S.C.I. Retreat for possible use as a county prison.

But they are concerned about the cost, other council members say they need more information before making any comment.