Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe M. Allbaugh has placed the agency on a hiring freeze for most positions, citing uncertainty over Fiscal Year 2018 budget cuts after the failure of this week’s Step Up Oklahoma proposal in the State House of Representatives.
The hiring freeze affects all agency positions except for correctional officers, food service workers and maintenance staff, as well as those who already have employment offers issued.
“Nearly 90 percent of our budget falls into four categories,” Allbaugh said. “That does not leave much wiggle room, and we can’t just close the Department of Corrections to save money. Therefore, I have put this agency on a hiring freeze until uncertainty with the Fiscal Year 2018 budget – a year which is more than half over - gets resolved.”
The decision isn't expected to have as much of an impact on local facilities, such as the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud.
Wednesday’s hiring freeze applies to unfilled, approved positions that don’t have a conditional offer of employment. The freeze does not apply to applicants who received conditional offers of employment before Wednesday.
The hiring freeze comes as ODOC for the second consecutive year has requested a more than $1 billion increase from its $485 million in appropriated funding.
For Fiscal Year 2019, ODOC has requested $813 million for two new medium security prisons to handle current population needs (with over 2,000 inmates in temporary beds), and future inmate growth. It also includes more than $107 million in facility repairs.
ODOC, the state’s fifth-largest agency, contends with staff shortages, and chronic, major maintenance problems at overcrowded, aging facilities spread across the state, as well as a high number of individuals under its supervision.
As of Wednesday morning, ODOC had 27,178 people incarcerated, and 958 awaiting transfer from county jails. 34,567 were under community supervision. State institutions were at 113-percent capacity.