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.