SCI Camp Hill opens up 1,000 beds for inmates

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LOWER ALLEN TOWNSHIP, CUMBERLAND COUNTY, PA. -- Room for a thousand more prisoners is opening up at a state correctional institution in Cumberland County.

A plan to close two state prisons could bring more inmates to the Department of Corrections' Camp Hill facility.

One currently empty prison cell block won't stay vacant for long.

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Office of Population Management director William Nicklow said "January 1, 2016, the population here was at 3,600. They're at about 2,400 and some change now, so we're just going back to pre-2016 levels here at SCI Camp Hill. There are vacant beds throughout the rest of the department. We'll be able to accommodate this."

This comes as the Wolf administration considers closing two prisons to cut costs in the state budget, while the Camp Hill facility will open up 1,000 beds for inmates.

"We simply consolidated and closed these housing units down temporarily because the population had decreased and allowed us to do that so we were able to reallocate our staff resources to use more efficiently throughout the facility," Nicklow said.

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Regional Deputy Secretary Tabb Bickell said "it's very hard on staff, and myself and really our leadership team up there in the central office. We do care about our staff, so we know the burden that it puts on them."

"The Secretary [of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections] has assured everybody that they will have positions in the department so nobody will lose a job," Bickell said.

State Correctional Institution Camp Hill also serves as a diagnostic center to determine an inmate's individual needs, so the prisoners who are expected to arrive there, might not stay there.

"A decision is made on where we best can send that inmate, to get what that individual needs to get successfully reentered back into society," Bickell said.

Keeping an eye on prison overcrowding is also a concern for ACLU of Pennsylvania legislative director Andy Hoover.

"The folks who work at Camp Hill in particular will have some responsibility to ensure that conditions remain reasonable and fair."