Workers at the state prisons now set to close in Hempfield Township and Cresson in Cambria County could be transferred to SCI Pine Grove in White Township. More than 800 employees will be impacted by the closures of the two prisons.
On Wednesday, Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel formally announced the closure of the two aging prisons, which officials have two of the highest vacancy rates in the state system. Along with the closure, the state is opening up a new prison in Benner Township, Centre County.
State officials say they’ll save around $23 million in the 2013-2014 budget and up to $35 million in the long term. The state expects to complete the closures by June 30th. Wetzel stresses that the closures don’t mean employees will be laid off, the state system has 700 job vacancies and many employed in Westmoreland and Cambria counties will be transferred to the new Centre County prison and also to a new 300-bed housing unit planned for SCI Pine Grove here in Indiana County. Others will be offered jobs elsewhere in the system.
Meanwhile, some officials in Cambria and Westmoreland counties are demanding hearings focused on the closure of the prisons.