State Sen. Kenneth Corn is urging the incoming State Legislature to address the staff shortages in Oklahoma’s prisons before the public or Department of Corrections (DOC) employees are placed at further risk.
Corrections and public safety were always top priorities for Corn, and as he prepares to leave office, he called on returning and newly elected lawmakers to make these issues priorities as well.
“In recent months I had the opportunity to visit several DOC facilities. What I saw was very disturbing. Because of budget cuts, staff shortages and furloughs, many guards and employees are working double shifts day after day, night after night,” Corn said. “It’s a dangerous situation with serious consequences if the next Legislature fails to recognize how Oklahomans are being placed in harm’s way.”
The State Board of Corrections approved a request for a supplemental appropriation last month asking for an additional $34.7 million. That request would enable DOC to end the furloughs and address other critical needs including offender growth as well as restoring operational funding.
“They called the situation a public safety nightmare. What I want to say is that’s not an exaggeration,” Corn said. “The prison population is at 99 percent capacity, but only 70 percent of all authorized positions are filled because of budget cuts. I hope our new leaders and lawmakers recognize this situation will only get worse unless they have the political courage to address this crisis.”