DOC Director Justin Jones reported last month that about 800 more prisoners were housed in October than in the same month of 2011. Thus his request for $6.4 million in supplemental funding, to pay for additional use of private prisons and halfway houses.
The DOC's check from the Legislature for this fiscal year totaled $463.7 million. Yet Jones in 2013 wants $12.2 million more from the Legislature, to pay for 5 percent pay raises. This is because the swollen prison population is being overseen by fewer numbers of corrections officers — the DOC budget includes only enough funding to fill 69 percent of the authorized positions, and not even all those are filled. Prison guards are routinely outnumbered by a sizable margin, but starting pay is just $11.83 per hour.
In October, Republican state Rep. Jeff Hickman called prison staffing levels “life-and-death situations now.” He added: “Someone is going to die if we don't make some changes and make them sooner rather than later.”
Given Oklahoma's track record, our money's on the changes coming later.