OKLAHOMA CITY - The state's Board of Corrections has approved separate resolutions relating to facility improvements and possible construction of new state prisons.
The board's unanimous approval came during their September meeting at the Jackie Brannon Correctional Center in McAlester. It specifically authorizes and directs Oklahoma Department of Corrections director Joe Allbaugh to:
- Negotiate, finalize and execute such documents, for and on behalf of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, as are necessary for the issuance of the SB 1590 Bonds by the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority. The bill, passed during last spring’s legislative session, authorized a $116.5 million bond for ODOC construction and maintenance needs across the agency – items ranging from new roofs and locks for cell doors to lighting and plumbing.
- Solicit information for the design, funding, and construction of new correctional facilities and new housing units and, upon evaluation of all submissions, present the information obtained and evaluations to the Board of Corrections at a future meeting.
Allbaugh has described state facilities as "overcrowded beyond belief." A newly launched podcast titled "Behind the Wire" addresses various issues at state prisons, including overcrowding and under-staffing.
"What bothers me is a lot of our CO positions are vacant now. We have some facilities that are under 35 percent of needed slots filled," Allbaugh said. "That’s very, very dangerous given the fact that we’re over populated."
According to the ODOC, there are nearly 28,000 incarcerated and 960 awaiting transfer from county jails. State facilities are currently operating at 153 percent capacity; however, private prisons lower the figure to 113 percent.
"This situation didn’t happen overnight, so it’s going to take many nights. Many hours, long hours," Allbaugh said. "We have to change and turn the tide on the way we think and approach who it is we want to imprison, because there is a substantial cost to everyone’s who involved."
To watch this month's entire podcast, click here.