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Lawmakers push for more appropriations, increased use of private facilities in state corrections

At a Thursday interim study on the state's prison system lawmakers and representatives from private prison and halfway house companies made a case for more privatization in the department of corrections.
by Graham Lee Brewer Modified: November 22, 2013 at 12:00 pm •  Published: November 21, 2013

Additional appropriations and stricter adherence to Oklahoma statutes in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections are imperative, said one lawmaker at a Thursday interim study.

Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Lavern, who hosted the study on prisons with Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, said the DOC could use at least an additional $20 to $25 million in state appropriations. During the study, he also tried to explore ways the prisons can counter overcrowding issues.

Blackwell said the Department of Corrections needs more money to better compensate its employees and reverse the high turnover rate.

Blackwell also said he would like to see the department follow Oklahoma statutes by transferring prisoners into step-down programs before release. Blackwell is suggesting the state do this by utilizing more privately owned halfway houses.

“We're at 100 percent,” said Blackwell. “If we put 500 of those inmates into private … halfway houses, all of a sudden we're at 97.5 percent, just by that simple move.”

According to the statute, the Department of Corrections is required to send inmates with no history of violent offenses to alternative facilities such as work centers, community housing, halfway houses, or work release programs no less than 210 days before release of custody. Other prisoners qualify for similar transfers at 180 days before release.

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by Graham Lee Brewer
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Graham Lee Brewer began his career as a journalist covering Oklahoma's vibrant music scene in 2006. After working as a public radio reporter for KGOU and then Oklahoma Watch, where he covered areas such as immigration and drug addiction, he went...
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