405-778-4800
Criminal Attorney Oklahoma Defense Lawyer Adam R. Banner OKLAHOMA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY AT LAW
This Attorney is Lead Counsel Rated. Click here for more Information.

Woefully Understaffed Dept. of Corrections Faces Additional Cuts

06-Mar-2015

Overcrowded, underfunded, and understaffed: these are among the top three words used to describe Oklahoma prisons, and despite the Department of Corrections' pleas for adequate funding and staffing, the beleaguered DOC faces additional budget cuts this year.

We have written before of the dangers associated with overcrowded, understaffed prisons. Oklahoma has one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation, coupled with one of the lowest staffing rates and one of the poorest pay rates for corrections officers in the nation. We have written about how " more inmates plus fewer guards is an equation for problems" for inmates, guards, and prison workers including teachers and social workers.

Last year, prisons were staffed at only 60 percent when the Department of Corrections asked the Oklahoma legislature to adequately fund prisons. The budget allowance only allowed for 67 percent staffing, but the agency has difficulty in finding and keeping prison guards, because of long hours and low pay. Many guards are asked to work 60-hour weeks at a rate of a little more than $11/hour--far less than the average starting pay for prison workers in other states. Now, the DOC has been told to prepare for additional budget cuts, despite a prison population that has increased by more than 13 percent over the last decade. By comparison, the number of corrections workers in the state decreased by 19 percent over the same time period.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton spoke to the Senate Appropriations Committee about the dire need for adequate budget, despite projected state budget cuts of $611 million this year. 

Patton called understaffing a "security concern," saying that while prisons are staffed at only 67 percent, prison capacity is at 116 percent--a significant and dangerous gap. Patton told the committee that full staffing would require an additional 857 correctional officers. It would cost the state $3.7 million to pay those officers.

Inadequate funding, low pay, long hours, and insufficient support are among the factors driving the state's inability to adequately staff prisons. But what is driving the increasing prison population?

It is not, as some would have you believe, an increase in violent crime or better prosecution of violent offenders. Rather, the majority of Oklahoma inmates are in prison for non-violent offenses and drug crimes. Drug offenders are typically spending longer time in prison as a result of tough drug laws and mandatory minimum sentencing. Additionally, the number of inmates serving longer sentences for 85 percent crimes has increased. With more people being sentenced for minor crimes, and most inmates serving longer sentences than in the past, the inmate population in Oklahoma has exceeded the prisons' capacity. 

Last year, a spokesman for Governor Mary Fallin said the Governor was "not concerned about the situation in the prisons," and argued that "staffing is adequate for the safety of Oklahoma." With prisons being asked to face additional cuts, it does not appear as if her opinion has changed.



All News

More News

Tulsa Tire Store Employee Accused of Sexually Assaulting Customer
17-Jul-2017

An employee of a Tulsa tire store has been arrested on a sexual ba..

Man Sentenced in Shooting of Valley Brook Police Officer
14-Jul-2017

An Oklahoma City man who shot a Valley Brook police officer on New..

No Restrictions on Oklahoma Sex Offender Moving Next Door to Victim
10-Jul-2017

Oklahoma places a lot of residency restrictions on convicted sex o..

Norman Father Arrested in Daughter's Shooting Death
07-Jul-2017

Just before dawn on June 29, a Norman man called 9-1-1 to report t..

Man's Child Abuse Charge Upgraded to Murder
03-Jul-2017

An Oklahoma City man charged with child abuse after his infant nep..

Garvin County Man Sentenced for Sexually Abusing Neighbor
30-Jun-2017

A man convicted in February of sexually assaulting a 5-year-old ne..

Oklahoma Man Accused of Attempting to Kill Cousin, Then Hiring an Escort
26-Jun-2017

An Oklahoma man who allegedly tried to kill his cousin in an arson..

Supreme Court Ruling Says Trademark Law Barring Offensive Names Infringes on Free Speech
23-Jun-2017

You have likely never heard of Asian American rock band the Slants..

Teen Who Urged Boyfriend to Commit Suicide Convicted of Manslaughter
19-Jun-2017

In July 2014, 18-year-old Conrad Roy III attempted to take his own..

Supreme Court to Decide Whether Warrantless Cell Phone Location Search Violates Fourth Amendment
12-Jun-2017

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that cou..

×