HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration is betting that it can maintain a lull in Pennsylvania’s historically expanding inmate population as it prepares to close two prisons in the western part of the state after canceling plans to build one and reopen yet another.
The Greensburg and Cresson state prisons, with about 2,400 inmates combined, will be closed in the next six months. Many of the inmates will move to the newly built Benner state prison, a 2,000-bed facility near State College that was once envisioned as a place to help house the rapidly growing prison population.
But the state’s prison population essentially flattened in the last three years, and the Corbett administration has put the brakes on a prison expansion that began in the final years under former Gov. Ed Rendell.
“This is really an important step for the administration and the next step in our corrections reform,” Corrections Secretary John Wetzel told a Capitol news conference Wednesday.
Pennsylvania’s prison population is tracking a national trend, with state prison populations falling in 2010 and 2011, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
The Corbett administration began informing lawmakers of its decision Tuesday and prison staff on Wednesday. The union that represents prison guards, the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association, said it understands the need to control costs, but a better review of the impact of closing prisons on the employees, their families and the two communities is needed.