As study unfolds, Oklahoma prison guards hoping for a cool August

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: May 17, 2013
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OKLAHOMA made it through the past two broiling summers without a major prison brawl — remarkable, really, considering the state's lockups are packed with groups that don't like each other, in facilities that aren't fully air conditioned.

And, with little to stop inmates if they do decide to rumble.

Only three-fifths of the state's correctional officer positions are filled. Keeping even that many men and women on the job is difficult because the pay is bad. The starting wage for a prison guard is $11.83 per hour, lower than what the same job pays in neighboring states and certainly below what's available in local oil field jobs.

It looked for a while during this legislative session that additional funding might be on the way to bump starting pay and provide raises for those now on the job. But the brakes were applied to that legislation after a squabble between the governor's office and the head of the Department of Corrections over DOC revolving funds.

Gov. Mary Fallin contended the DOC was seeking to hide $22 million in the three funds. DOC Director Justin Jones said that this wasn't the case. Later, documents showed that the amount held in two of the funds was much greater than what the DOC had reported to the governor for her budgeting purposes.

The proposed $7.1 billion budget for fiscal year 2014 included no additional funding for corrections. If that wasn't stinging enough, the budget also steered $7 million to the House, Senate and Legislative Service bureau, including $5 million to remodel unused Capitol offices.

Jones, who has been DOC director since 2005 and whose career with the agency spans 37 years, insists his management of the budget is sound and responsible. The governor's office isn't so sure. Fallin wants improvements in how funds are spent and reported. Both sides make compelling arguments.

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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