HEMPFIELD TOWNSHIP (KDKA) – Officials at one county jail are worrying about overcrowding issues due to the pending closure of SCI Pittsburgh.

For Westmoreland County’s prison warden, the eventual closing of SCI Pittsburgh leaves him with many concerns.

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“What’s going to happen to this classification center,” says John Walton, the warden of the Westmoreland County Prison.

A state prison classification center essentially takes prisoners from county lock-ups, and then determines what state prison they’ll spend the rest of their sentence in.

With SCI Pittsburgh’s closure, Walton says for his facility, “The next classification center is out east; it’s SCI Camp Hill.”

That’s 148 miles and three hours away. So, sheriff’s deputies have to make the trip, and that means additional costs.

“Overtime, additional mileage, turnpike tolls and things of that nature,” said Walton. “No reimbursement whatsoever.”

SCI Pittsburgh’s shuttering means possible overcrowding for the Westmoreland County Prison.

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“Was there going to be delays in getting these people transferred?” said Walton. “We’re pretty swamped with beds. So, what that would be to me is, say for example over a six month period, it meant a delay of 50 inmates.”

Overcrowding, medical costs and security concerns pose problems for local prisons. That means more local money spent on state prisoners.

“There’s no money reimbursed,” Walton said.

But late word from the state Department of Corrections has allayed many concerns.

“That they will assume the responsibility of getting [prisoners] from Pittsburgh to Camp Hill,” Walton said.

And when SCI Pittsburgh turns out the lights in July, there are plans for a closer classification center.

“SCI Greene, even SCI Mercer, they are definitely both closer then SCI Camp Hill,” Walton said.

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