Pa. prisons are getting some new inmates, courtesy of Vermont

 Employees and guards change shifts at the Camp Hill State Correctional Institution.  The prison has extra beds, some of which will go to Vermont inmates next month. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

Employees and guards change shifts at the Camp Hill State Correctional Institution. The prison has extra beds, some of which will go to Vermont inmates next month. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections is striking a deal to house inmates from Vermont in its Camp Hill Prison, which has about a thousand empty beds.

The department first discussed such rental agreements early this year, after receiving pressure from the governor and legislature to cut costs in the face of a severe budget deficit.

Contract negotiations started soon after Corrections Secretary John Wetzel announced Pennsylvania’s inmate population had declined enough to close a prison.

Susan McNaughton, communications director at the DOC, said it was good timing.

“As a result of reducing our inmate population over the last couple of years, we have all of these extra beds, and Vermont heard this,” she said. “So they reached out to us, it wasn’t like we went looking for them.”

The contract will net about $5 million a year, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the Corrections Department’s often-strained $2 billion budget. But McNaughton said it’s worthwhile.

“I would think that a bed that’s producing some income is better than a bed that’s just sitting there doing nothing,” she said.

She added that the department would be open to additional contracts, but nothing is currently in the works.

The Vermont inmates will start moving into Camp Hill next month.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.