FORT SUPPLY, Okla. (KFOR) – A pair of Oklahoma lawmakers is asking Gov. Kevin Stitt to delay closing a minimum security prison in Woodward County.
William S. Key Correctional Center, located in Fort Supply, Okla., will close by the end of the year after officials say the facility is becoming harder to maintain in order to ensure safety standards.
“The decision to close a facility is always a difficult one,” said ODOC Director Scott Crow. “However, in order to assure the safety of our staff and inmates and act as proper stewards of the taxpayer funds we are entrusted with, this decision had to be made.”
Now, a pair of state lawmakers are asking the governor to delay the closing of the facility.
Sen. Casey Murdock and Rep. Carl Newton say they still have questions after a recent Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the closure.
“We need time to ask the questions representatives from the Department of Corrections didn’t know the answers to,” Murdock said. “The governor signed off thinking they had a plan and I don’t think he had all the information needed. What we got out of that meeting was a whole lot of ‘I don’t knows.’ Why are they rushing the closing of this prison when they don’t know how much this is going to cost the taxpayers of this state? We need to slow this train down.”
“I join Senator Murdock and our fellow lawmakers in concerns over the financial impact of this rushed decision,” Newton said. “I would like the department to slow down and let us look more thoroughly at the full implications of the potential closure of this facility and the effect it will have on our communities in northwest Oklahoma.”
Murdock says that the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is currently paying $19 million a year in overtime. He said he worries that if some detention officers require or quit rather than transferring to another facility, it could worsen staffing shortages and increase overtime costs.
Murdock also said he wonders if legislators were misled in a recent hearing. When asked how many prisoners had already been transferred within the last week, Crow said only the normal transfer of prisoners had occurred.
“There are regular transfers that occur, but in the weeks before this announcement there were about 700 inmates at the prison, and they shipped out 300 in just the last month. That’s not normal, and I question whether what we were told was even remotely accurate,” Murdock said. “If we were misled in that meeting, I have to wonder if the governor was also misled when he was asked to sign off on the prison closure. If this decision was based on bad information, are we really doing what’s best for this state?”