State decides to close SCI Retreat

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(WBRE/WYOU) — Confusion, disgust and for some anger. Just some of the words being used to describe the decision by the state to close SCI Retreat in Luzerne County.

Thursday efforts were launched to try to keep the doors of SCI Retreat open. Many people in our region, especially in Luzerne County, are saying ‘here we go again’, or asking the question ‘I thought this prison was saved two years ago and all is well?’ So now you could call it the fight to save SCI Retreat, The Sequel.

“So we have a fight on our hands. We have to all join together to work to make the case,” Senator Lisa Baker said.

And that’s the battle cry Thursday as state lawmakers rallied the troops to fight the planned closure of SCI Retreat. The same proposal was put forth two years ago and community outrage convinced the state to keep the doors open.

“Last time we did that we made the economic case. We also have to make the community case,” Baker said.

More than 400 people work at SCI Retreat, most of them corrections officers.

“We don’t believe that you can put a price on public safety,” PA State Corrections Officers Association president Larry Blackwell said.

Corrections officers are being offered jobs at other state prisons but union officials say…

“The bigger impact on that is, when they are driving, the impact on the community is going to be if they decide to move out of the area and we’ve seen that in closings in the past,” Blackwell said.

The state Department of Corrections released a statement that says the move will not jeopardize public safety and “the proposed closure of SCI Retreat is expected to save taxpayers $20 million this fiscal year and $40 million next fiscal year. In addition, the DOC would avoid costs associated replacements of roofing, the bridge that leads to the facility, the boiler, and security-related equipment.”

But these lawmakers say those costs can be reduced.

“The men and women who work in these facilities can put four, five, six items on the table that can save more money than closing down the prison,” Senator John Yudichak said.

Public hearings have to be held before a final decision is made by the state and as we saw two years ago, these lawmakers say they will fight the closing at every turn.

The closing will have a major impact on the economy of the region, especially on nearby businesses.

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