GREENSBURG (KDKA) — Hundreds of jobs are expected to be lost as the state moves to close two local prisons.

The Greensburg State Prison in Westmoreland County and Cresson State Prison in Cambria County are closing later this year.

It was an announcement that blindsided most of those affected by it.

While many of the employees will be relocated to other state prisons, it’s becoming clear that the economic impact on Westmoreland County will be a big one.

SCI Greensburg employs more than 400 people who are earning salaries, benefits and a state pension. But those people may soon relocate to work at other prisons in the state system.

“Those are people that are out at the local grocery stores, those are the people that are eating in restaurants, those are people buying gasoline at the gas stations,” said Westmoreland County Commissioner Chuck Anderson. “You know, they’re living their lives and they have families that are going to school, doing all the things that normal life makes up. And that has an impact.”

SCI Greensburg is one of two prisons slated to close in a move the Corbett Administration says will save taxpayers $23 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year. Also closing is SCI Cresson in Cambria County.

SCI Greensburg is a medium security prison for men.

It has the largest vacancy rate in the state prison system, followed closely by SCI Cresson.

Most prisoners will be relocated to the new $200 million SCI Benner facility in Centre County.

The move means that local suppliers who provide food, electricity and other supplies to SCI Greensburg will be losing a big customer.

“We’re trying to build this economy; we’re trying to grow this place and move Westmoreland County forward and this is a major stumbling block,” said Anderson.

State Sen. Kim Ward met with state representatives from across the area Wednesday afternoon. She is trying to come up with a plan to minimize the impact on the area.

“We are going to, together – you know, there’s power in numbers – ask the administration for time so that we can gather the facts and we are going to do what we can,” said Sen. Ward. “We are not going to give up.”

The Department of Corrections says the closing of the prisons will happen gradually. The goal is to have the process complete by June 30.

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