Reaction to Governor Wolf’s Decision to Close SCI Retreat

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(WBRE/WYOU) — It’s a done deal. SCI Retreat will close.

That’s the word Friday from Governor Tom Wolf. It comes two days after the state Department of Corrections recommended closing the facility in Luzerne County. The fate of 400 employees at the prison is now up in the air and state and local leaders say they are very concerned about the impact the closing will have on the region’s economy.

“It is going to hurt people around here. People that live in the area if they are offered another job they’re not going to be able to move to take that job,” Wayne Wolfe, owner of Five Mountain Hardware said.

SCI Retreat is just up the road from where Wolfe’s hardware business is located in Shickshinny.

“I have a lot of customers that work there and drive through here. It will cut down traffic,” Wolfe said.

300 of the 400 employees at SCI Retreat are corrections officers. They will be offered positions at other state prisons within a 65-mile radius of Retreat. The 1,200 inmates will also be sent to other state prisons.

Governor Wolf accepted the recommendation of the DOC report which says the aging facility must be closed because of a decline in the inmate population statewide and it would be too costly. Some $20 million to renovate it.

Governor Wolf issued a statement which read in part: “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.”

State Representative Tarah Toohil is holding out hope for the future of the prison.

“We’re dismayed by this. This is going to have an extremely negative impact on our economy here, on our families, our schools. So we are still asking the governor to please reconsider,” Toohil said.

State Senator John Yudichak talked with the governor Friday morning.

“We have to get over that disappointment and focus on helping those families now. It’s about the communities. The governor has been earnest to reinvest in Luzerne County to help these communities, these families recover,” Yudichak said.

A spokesperson for the union that represents corrections officers issued this statement: “To save money, Pennsylvania is closing prisons at a time when 60 percent of inmates return to prison within three years. Pennsylvania’s system is bursting at the seams. State lawmakers must hold the Department of Corrections accountable for putting money over public safety, or prisons in their legislative districts will be next.”

As for a timetable on when the doors of SCI Retreat will close for good, it looks like that could happen as early as May of this year.

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