Harrisburg, PA – Administration Press Secretary J.J. Abbott released the following statement ahead of the joint hearing with the Department of Corrections (DOC) on the upcoming final announcement of facility closures:
“Today, Sec. John Wetzel, a national leader in criminal justice, and his staff from the Department of Corrections, including experts on prison population and safety, will testify in front of a joint public hearing. The DOC has seen a historic reduction in their prison population and is able to close two older, expensive state correctional institutions, provide a new position to each impacted staff member, and safely relocate all effected inmates to one of the existing 24 SCIs across the Commonwealth.
“The DOC’s participation in the hearing is another example of how this administration is being open and transparent while it determines which prisons to close. Allowing for public and legislative input is an essential change DOC has incorporated after the last closings. The reason that the administration brought transparency to this process was to allow communities to be heard and participate in it. We empathize with their concerns and we are listening.
“Pennsylvania spends $2 billion on corrections and has an even greater structural budget deficit. That combination threatens cuts to investments in education and other programs, and increases in taxes, unless we address these issues. For the first time in a long time, prison population is consistently falling. Closing prisons is a smart decision for the DOC, both financially and operationally, including for safety.
“While today’s hearing may focus on the economic impact to specific communities, we must not overlook the importance of continuing to advance criminal justice reforms that reduce taxpayer spending, deliver better outcomes, increase resources for preventive programs like education, parole and law enforcement, and improve public safety. We cannot forget that high rates of incarceration have serious negative consequences on many communities and families.
“The General Assembly should be proud of the reforms passed after the first Justice Reinvestment Initiative that are resulting in a lower burden to the taxpayers for prison spending. The next phase of reforms should continue this track – saving tens of millions of taxpayer dollars and delivering better results that improve public safety. We look forward to continuing to work with legislators from both sides of the aisle on these issues.”
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