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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Lawmakers eye Corrections funds

  • If special session is called, legislators want corrections funding included.
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  • Nearly every state legislator with a prison in their district has signed onto a petition calling for corrections funding to be addressed if a special session is called, according to state Rep. Gus Blackwell.
     
    As of Aug. 5, the state corrections system is at 97.7 percent capacity, or has filled 25,348 or the 25,946 state and contract beds available. There are 1,672 inmates in county jail that are awaiting transfer to the state corrections system, with a typical wait time of approximately 8 to 10 months. As of July 1, 61.68 percent of the correctional officer positions are filled.
     
    According to the Department of Corrections, there is approximately $7 million remaining in the revolving funds referenced by Governor Mary Fallin when she rejected a supplemental appropriations request of the agency. Nearly $5 million in the revolving funds cannot be used by the agency unless they receive specific authorization from the Oklahoma Legislature, which they have yet to receive.
     
    “Public safety is the number one legitimate core function of government,” Blackwell, R-Laverne. “It’s essential that we make sure that the officers and staff of the Department of Corrections are able to perform their jobs in an atmosphere of safety and that the citizens of Oklahoma are kept safe from the danger inherent in overcrowded prisons. The continued low number of officers coupled with the high incarceration rates is producing a situation that is conducive to extremely problematic scenarios in the DOC facilities.
     
    “If the governor believes that tort reform is such a pressing issue that she must call a special session, then surely the safety and protection of DOC employees ought to also be on the agenda.”
     
     
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