Prison towns: What it's like to live in McAlester, Lexington

Residents of McAlester and Lexington talk about maximum security prisons in their towns and what it's like to live and work next to them.
BY TIFFANY GIBSON and MATT PATTERSON Staff Writers tgibson@opubco.com, mpatterson@opubco.com Modified: December 11, 2011 at 10:29 am •  Published: December 11, 2011


photo - Lexington Assessment and Reception Center  Oklahoma Department of Corrections - Courtesy of 
 Lexington Assessment and Reception Capacity (Maximum Security) 
 
 
 
     Unit 1 
     158 
 
 
     Unit 2 
     460 
 
 
     Unit 9 
     100 
 

 
     Total 
     418 
 
 
 

 Lexington Correctional Center Capacity (Medium Security) 
 
 
 
     Unit 3 A 
     79 
 
 
     Unit 3 B 
     80 
 
 
     Unit 4 D 
     80 
 
 
     Unit 4 E 
     80 
 
 
     Unit 5 G 
     80 
 
 
     unit 5 H 
     80 
 
 
     Unit 6 N 
     86 
 
 
     Unit 6 O 
     88 
 
 
     Unit 7 East (RTMU) 
     134 
 
 
     Unit 7 (RTMU) 
     133 
 
 
     Unit 8 
     100 
 
 
     Total 
     1,020
Lexington Assessment and Reception Center Oklahoma Department of Corrections - Courtesy of

Lexington Assessment and Reception Capacity (Maximum Security)

Unit 1 158
Unit 2 460
Unit 9 100
Total 418

Lexington Correctional Center Capacity (Medium Security)

Unit 3 A 79
Unit 3 B 80
Unit 4 D 80
Unit 4 E 80
Unit 5 G 80
unit 5 H 80
Unit 6 N 86
Unit 6 O 88
Unit 7 East (RTMU) 134
Unit 7 (RTMU) 133
Unit 8 100
Total 1,020

Residents who grew up in McAlester are familiar with the history of the prison and know that an escapee will want to get away from the area right away, he said.

"The people who lived here all their lives, they're not one bit scared of the prison," Adams said.

Warden Randall G. Workman said the penitentiary has brought many jobs to McAlester over the years and continues to educate people about the prison system and Department of Corrections.

"It sort of represents the culture of the area," he said.

Living in Lexington

Herbie Engdahl, 74, has operated Engdahl's Auto Company in Lexington for nearly 55 years.

His life in Lexington predates the construction of the Joseph Harp Correctional Center in 1978. Like most residents of Lexington, Engdahl doesn't give much thought to having a prison in his town.

"I've never had a problem with it," he said. "We've never had any big problems as far as I know. You hear stories every now and then but I've been through the prison on a tour and it's a pretty up to date deal."

The Lexington Assessment and Reception Center was built on the site of the Lexington Regional Treatment Center, an old military installation acquired by the department in 1971, according to DOC's website.

The assessment and reception center is a maximum security unit that holds offenders recently sentenced by a judge. Staff members keep the offenders in this unit to decide which facility they should be assigned to.

Lexington Police Chief Deana Standridge agrees with Engdahl, but said sometimes visitors cause traffic problems around town.

"People come through here to visit their friends and family at the prison on Saturdays and Sundays," Standridge said. "It increases our traffic volume tremendously which increases the amount of people who keep us busy on the weekends."

Standridge said her department maintains an excellent relationship with the prison. She said any time she has had questions or concerns they have been addressed promptly. She said the few times there have been escapes inmates don't normally head toward town.

"I think there's been one time since I became chief in 2001 that one of them actually came into town after escaping and in that case we got them pretty quickly," she said.



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