Senate Passes Legislation to Prevent Prison Closures without Public Input, Brooks Says

HARRISBURG (March 27, 2018)  –Responding to the governor’s sudden call for the possible closure of SCI Mercer and other state prisons last year, Sen. Michele Brooks worked with three of her fellow senators to author legislation that factors efficiency, effectiveness and public input into the prison closure process. The Senate passed their legislation, Senate Bill 748, today by a vote of 47 to 1.

Senate Bill 748 would better protect our communities and the law enforcement officers who serve them by ensuring that notice and consideration are given before any proposed closure of state correctional facilities, police barracks, and other law enforcement and security structures, she said.  
“My colleagues and I joined corrections officers and local officials to make the case for why SCI Mercer should remain open, from the vantage point of not only public safety, but operational efficiency and effectiveness. Of the facilities slated for closure, Mercer is one of the lowest cost facilities to operate per inmate,” Brooks pointed out. 

The bill comes after the state Department of Corrections (DOC) announced imminent closures of two of five state correctional institutions in January 2017, allowing only 20 days for input from the workforce, local governments, elected officials and others.  In the end, SCI Mercer was saved from closure and even expanded, with the addition of a Veterans Service Unit; SCI Pittsburgh was closed.

“We need the benefit of time and clear procedures to evaluate proposed facility closures, especially from the standpoint of public safety, efficiency, community impact and jobs.  Our citizens deserve a seat at the table and a voice in the process,” Brooks said. “The governor’s call to possibly close SCI Mercer gave us little time to comment and caused undue hardships among so many families who rely on those jobs to pay their bills and care for their families.”  
Modeled after a New York law, the legislation requires that stakeholders be notified at least one year before a proposed closure is outlined, and that a public hearing be held. It now heads to the House for consideration. 

“Public safety is too vital a function to abruptly close facilities that employ hundreds and that could potentially result in putting people back on the streets who shouldn’t be.” 

Media contact: Diane McNaughton, 717-787-1322  

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