NEWPORT TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) The staff and community surrounding SCI Retreat have gone round after round trying to keep the facility open. With a global pandemic on our doorstep, it’s getting a different purpose, but the doors are open.
Newly sentenced inmates and male parole violators will be making a 14-day detour in Newport Township, per a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections announcement.
Eyewitness News spoke with State Senator John Yudichak who says this re-purposing is about teamwork in the face of adversity.
“This is about suppressing COVID-19 in both the county and state correctional facilities,” said Yudichak. “A state inmate may spend several months or even longer at a county correctional facility. We want to relieve our counties, like Luzerne and Carbon, that may have a population of state inmates that we can get to the state system.”
From there, they would enter the state system via Camp Hill. This means new life for the vacating SCI Retreat.
“The SCI Retreat employees that were on staff and are currently on staff will remain,” Yudichak added. “That facility will remain open through the duration of this crisis.”
Luzerne County Manager David Pedri has been on the front lines of trying to keep Retreat open.
“SCI Retreat, manned by some of the hardest workers I’ve ever known, will once again serving the citizens of Pennsylvania,” he said. “I commend the Department of Corrections for their review and quick action in the face of a compelling need.”
Pedri, Yudichak and the Department of Corrections all gave high praise to the SCI Retreat community that has already been through so much before finding themselves on the front lines when it comes to COVID-19.
“We want to make sure that we do that, that it doesn’t spread through the inmate population or to the staff serving the inmate population,” Yudichak added.
A source inside the prison says the plan is to have the prior inmates out by the end of the week with an exception of a few inmates for kitchen and maintenance work. March 28 is when new inmates will be coming in for their two-week repository stays.
The temporary use of SCI Retreat is just that at this point, temporary — but Yudichak and other elected officials will be urging the DOC to evaluate its use during this time and re-evaluate moving forward.