TULSA — After the Oklahoma Corrections Department canceled its contract amid three ongoing investigations, a private company has removed 212 state offenders from a Tulsa halfway house.
Oklahoma-based Avalon Correctional Services Inc. was given 10 days to take action in a letter from Deputy Director Reginald Hines sent Jan. 14.
The letter says the department has “lost confidence in the administration of the Tulsa facility,” and no offenders will be sent there until after the department has completed and reviewed the findings of the investigations.
One of those investigations pertains to allegations that officers at the Tulsa facility organized fights between offenders, which The Oklahoman first reported Nov. 23.
A video of inmates brawling surrounded by fellow offenders at the facility was made available to the media by Tulsa attorney Louis Bullock last week. Avalon later confirmed the video was shot Aug. 24.
Most of the 212 offenders have been transferred to other private halfway houses, and a small number either have been discharged or placed on GPS monitoring. One was sent to Nowata County jail and one more was paroled. Nine of those transferred were sent to the Carver Transitional Center, another halfway house operated by Avalon.
At a special meeting Friday of the Oklahoma Board of Corrections, Avalon President Brian Costello proposed removing the Tulsa facility's administrator, Donald Coffman, and offered to pay the salary of a full-time Corrections Department employee to monitor necessary changes to reinstate Avalon's contract with the department.
Costello said Wednesday Coffman is still on Avalon's payroll and is working in the company's central office.
The Tulsa center will continue to house about 20 people who are paying for their treatment privately, but Costello said he has worries the loss of the state contract could result in permanent closure.
“It will take us a while to hopefully restore the faith in our operation by the department, but also the public at large,” Costello said. “We think we provide a service that is essential for Oklahoma, like we do in Texas where, you know, the increase in halfway house usage and treatment usage has actually driven the prison population down.”
The Corrections Department also limited to 225 the total number of state offenders the Carver Transitional Center can house. The facility has a 556-bed capacity.
Once the department has completed its investigations it will outline a course of action, if any, that can be taken by Avalon to renew its contract with the state to house offenders in the Tulsa center, said Jerry Massie, Corrections Department spokesman.
“We'll come up with what we believe are corrective actions that need to occur and see how they'll respond to that,” Massie said.