I’m sure I wasn’t the only one whose interest was piqued by this week’s article detailing the cost-savings measures at state prisons proposed by Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel.
I applaud the secretary for suggesting that we reduce recidivism rates and I support him in those efforts, but at what price?
As the local community is unfortunately aware, in recent months there has been an incredible number of assaults, including the July 25 vicious attack on a female staff member at SCI Rockview.
Reports following the assaults point to management’s failure to properly staff the prison. Cutting corners and careless management only put our prison personnel in serious danger.
I have been advised that recent history demonstrates a proliferation of hiring administrators at the expense of addressing the manpower needs with respect to guards.
It’s also my understanding that DOC does not begin replacing retirees until after their retirement dates. Further, I’m told there is a large number of vacancies for guards at Rockview and SCI Benner Township.
Not only is this a safety issue, but the overtime that results from these vacancies cannot result in cost savings to the commonwealth with respect to not filling these vacancies. I have repeatedly requested hearings to address these assaults, manpower deficiencies and management problems, but the Republican administration and the House Judiciary Committee have refused or ignored my requests.
Maintaining safety for the public and the prison workforce must be the top priority when any cost-cutting discussion takes place.
Rep. Mike Hanna, Lock Haven
The writer is a Democrat who represents the 76th Legislative District in Clinton and Centre counties.