Oklahoma prisons often top 99 percent capacity

By BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Published: 8/12/2010 2:25 AM

Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=16&articleid=20100812_16_A8_TAFTTh694797&archive=yes

TAFT – The state’s prison population routinely hits 99 percent of capacity, the Board of Corrections was told Wednesday.

“We have been over 99 percent in the last 30 days more times than in history,” Department of Corrections Director Justin Jones told the board at its regular monthly meeting at the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft.

As of Aug. 2, state-run prisons were operating at 98.85 percent of capacity with 18,326 offenders, according to a population analysis provided to board members.

The 99 percent figure includes contract beds at halfway houses, private prisons and county jails.

Jones said operating at such a high percentage of capacity makes it difficult to transfer inmates among facilities. “If we had to vacate a housing unit, there is no place to go,” he said.

The agency would normally rely on vacant private prison beds, among other options, but it does not have the funds to pay, Jones said.

“Our system is locked up, for lack of a better term,” he said.

State agencies have been cutting budgets as a result of declining state revenue.

Jones said the Department of Corrections will ask lawmakers for a supplemental appropriation of up to $40 million to reduce the number of furlough days its employees have to take during the current budget year and to pay for offender growth.

The agency is operating at 70.9 percent of its authorized level of correctional officers, Jones said.

Board member David
Henneke said he was concerned that the elimination of prison treatment programs due to budget cuts could result in some offenders not being able to perform assignments ordered by the courts.

As a result, they could wind up with longer stays in prison, Henneke said.

Jones said the agency has tried to educate judges and the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board about the lack of programs currently available inside the system.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=16&articleid=20100812_16_A8_TAFTTh694797&archive=yes

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