Inmates not yet going to new Benner Township state prison

A spokeswoman with the Department of Corrections said this week that prisoners are not yet being transferred to the newly constructed State Correctional Institution at Benner, which is set to open in June.

The new, $200 million state prison in Benner Township will get inmates from two state prisons in western Pennsylvania the state is closing to save money. By shuttering prisons in Cresson, Cambria County, and Greensburg, Westmoreland County, the state expects to save $23 million, Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said last week.

Department of Corrections press secretary Susan McNaughton said some inmates are already being transferred out of Cresson, but not to the new prison. Some, however, have been transferred to the neighboring State Correctional Institution at Rockview.

Some of those being moved are normal transports, planned prior to the announcement of the closures, while others are to gradually draw down the prison population until the facility closes, McNaughton said in an email.

Benner state prison will have 2,000 inmates and more than 500 staff on board by the end of June, the state corrections department said.

Meanwhile, the state Senate Judiciary Committee plans to meet next week for a hearing on plans to shutter two state prisons and move inmates to Benner Township.

State Sen. John Wozniak plans to raise concerns about closing the Cresson state prison, which is located in his district. More than 500 people are employed at the facility, though employees will be able to apply for jobs at Benner and other prisons, officials said.

Wozniak’s district includes Cambria County and a slice of western Centre County. In a statement this week, he was critical of what he called a lack of public input into the decision to close two prisons.

The target date to open the Benner Township prison and have the Cresson and Greensburg prisons closed is June 30, McNaughton said.