OKLAHOMA CITY – Dozens of sheriffs from around the state converged at the capitol to express disdain for changes in how the Department of Corrections inmates are housed.
Scott Jay, Beckham County Sheriff said, “What they want to do is going to hurt sheriffs all across the state and the fiscal impact on county government across the state is going to be tremendous, astronomical.”
For years the DOC paid county jails $27 a day to house offenders when state facilities are overcrowded.
The new plan is to move those inmates back to state facilities and take the money used to care for them.
Jay said the trickle down effect will ultimately hurt citizens.
“We’re looking at an estimated $274,000. It’s going to take out of our budget. That’s a lot of money for Beckham County.” said Jay. “We don’t know if we are going to be able to keep deputies on the road to answer those calls. We’re so busy right now with domestic violence and violent crimes are up right now.”
In Ponontoc County, sheriff John Christian has the same concerns.
He says those funds are about half of his budget.
Christian said, “With that reduction in staff our crime rate starts increasing. We’re not able to work the cases we need to work.”
Christian says the DOC moved 20 inmates from his jail last week and are scheduling to move more this week.
The new DOC director, Robert Patton, does not believe the county budgets are his problem.
Patton said, “My responsibility is to the taxpayers of the state. I’m not responsible for county budgets or how they run their counties.”
Patton says he was hired two months ago to balance the budget.
Patton said, “We spent over 17 million dollars, close to 20 million dollars last year on county jail backup.”
He plans to stop county jail backup by the end of next month.
Patton said when inmates are held at county jails, they do not get all the of programs they need like drug treatment and education.