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Legislature ignores DOC's staffing crisis

Published: March 31, 2013

Regarding “Cost of aging inmates may shackle state” (News, March 23): As a physician, if I fail to act to prevent an avoidable illness I'd be deemed negligent and held accountable. Yet the Legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin turn a blind eye to the well-publicized crisis in adequate funding for the Department of Corrections, apparently believing they're immune to the consequences of their neglect.

I've worked at Lexington Correctional Center for six years. I'm in the front line of the daily challenges for DOC. I can validate the alarming growth in numbers of increasingly sick inmates and the cost of care for our aging inmate population. The below-market pay scale, lack of pay raises since 2006, past furloughs, chronic understaffing and the psychological aspects of working in a prison with dangerous felons cause great difficulty in recruiting and retaining competent, qualified medical providers to meet current needs. Many long-term experienced staff members have left DOC for these reasons, further exacerbating critical staff shortages. Low morale, high stress and burnout are affecting the remaining dedicated, hard-working staff. Similar circumstances exist from understaffing of correctional officers.

Do you know of any successful business that can operate effectively with only 62 percent of its allotted staff positions filled? Inadequate funding of critical staffing needs within the DOC has led to a crisis that should no longer be ignored by our elected representatives. It's their responsibility!

Ross Fisher, Blanchard