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DOC pushes $1.5B budget request during Senate appropriations hearing

OKLAHOMA CITY - Facing prison overcrowding, lack of pay raises spanning more than a decade and wanting to expand educational and medical programs for inmates are just some of the items detailed by the state's department of corrections director before a Senate appropriations hearing Tuesday afternoon.

Director Joe Allbaugh, at times impassioned and not mincing words about the situations facing his agency, spoke for more than an hour as he detailed specifics for what the $1.5 billion in state funds, if appropriated, would be used for.

"I’m sorry, but I’m frustrated about this," Allbaugh said. "And I know you all see me and I represent the ugly underbelly of society and unfortunately the ugly underbelly of society requires a little bit of money to remain alive."

ODOC first unveiled its budget request in January. As a part of the $1.5 billion, more than $800 million would fund construction of two new medium security prisons, along with more than $100 million for facility maintenance and repairs, as well as $10 million for pay raises.

"We don’t invest in our individuals, we don’t train them properly, we don’t prepare them for upward migration in our system," said Allbaugh. "We are failing our employees, just as we are failing the inmates."

"Shorten the list because with our revenue the way it is right now, I’m going to be quite honest with you," said Sen. Larry Boggs, R-Wilburton, "we’re not going to be able to do a lot."

“It sounds like plan B to me. Well, number one is easy, take care of our people.”

Allbaugh says under-staffing, lack of money for training and pay increases is contributing to the problems of a system already at overcapacity.

"We are 153 percent of capacity in those (prisons) that are state owned," said Allbaugh. "I'm telling you folks, we're cruising for a bruising."

The DOC requested $1.6 billion from the state last year, however received $485 million.