Sen. Brooks Joins Senate Colleagues in Securing Hearing on Prison Closure

Department Analysis Has Inaccurate Information on SCI Mercer  

HARRISBURG – (Jan. 11, 2017) After joining several of her Senate colleagues in calling for public hearings on the governor’s plan to close two state prisons by the summer, Sen. Michele Brooks welcomed the decision by three state Senate committees to honor their request.

The Senate Republican Majority and Democratic Policy Committees, in conjunction with the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced that they will hold a public hearing at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, January 23 in Hearing Room 1 of the North Office Building in the state Capitol Complex.  Interested parties can watch the hearing on Sen. Brooks’ website at www.senatorbrooks.com.

“This hearing will focus on fact-finding to ensure that accurate information is used in making this major decision. It will also give representatives of each community an opportunity to relay important, site-specific information pertaining to their individual facility,” Sen. Brooks said.  “This decision is too important to be made unilaterally or behind closed doors.  Public involvement, accurate information, and transparency are musts.”

Sen. Brooks added, “We have already identified erroneous information in the Department’s analysis relating to SCI Mercer. For instance, the analysis makes reference to upgrades to the prison, including new roofs, road paving, and the replacement of underground storage tanks, with related costs.  However, these upgrades have already been completed.  The majority of new roofs have been replaced, road paving has been finished, and the storage tanks are in the process of being completed.”

“Clearly the governor’s information on SCI Mercer is flawed and out-of-date,” Sen. Brooks stated.  “In yet another omission, the Department’s assessment does not account for a recent change made in SCI Mercer’s sewage treatment, which will save SCI Mercer and the state upwards of $300,000 annually in operating costs.”

Sen. Brooks also noted that a large majority of the employees at SCI Mercer are veterans, and that SCI Mercer has the lowest annual cost per inmate of all five prisons on the list for closure.

On January 6, officials from the Department of Corrections and the governor announced that they plan to close two state prisons in June. Besides SCI Mercer, the other prisons listed for possible closure are SCI Pittsburgh, SCI Frackville, SCI Retreat and SCI Waymart.  Sen. Brooks and the local House delegation immediately pledged to work in a bipartisan manner to fight for SCI Mercer and articulate why it makes fiscal sense to keep it open, as well as to spell out the impact it will have on hundreds of jobs, the local economy and public safety.

“Knowing that cost-cutting is the primary goal of the governor’s closure plan, it defies logic to close the prison with the lowest annual cost per inmate of the five on the list,” Brooks emphasized.  “In fact, the facility is run even more cost-effectively than the governor’s numbers reveal.”

The administration is scheduled to make its final decision as to which two prisons to close on January 26.

Contact: Diane McNaughton                (717) 787-6725