A measure to save the state Department of Corrections (DOC) thousands of dollars each year was unanimously approved in the Senate Thursday. Senate Bill 1069, by Sen. Don Barrington, would authorize the DOC to deduct the cost of inmate cremations from the individuals’ acquired funds.
“We needed to address a situation that’s becoming more and more common for the Department of Corrections. Inmates pass away and their designee doesn’t want to claim the remains, but they do collect their personal belongings and any funds that individual accumulated while behind bars leaving the agency with the bill for cremation. It’s not right,” said Barrington, R-Lawton. “This measure will allow the agency to basically let the deceased inmate pay for their own cremation by using what money they accumulated while in prison.”
After entering into DOC custody, inmates are required to name a designee to receive any possessions and money they have should they pass away while in prison. During incarceration, inmates build up what is referred to as a “trust fund” which consists of funds they earn through working in the prison and money they receive from their families for toiletries and other necessities. Under SB 1069, upon an inmate’s death, if the designee declines to pay for burial and DOC has to cremate the individual, the agency will deduct the cost of that procedure from the balance due to the designee.
The measure was requested by the DOC, which estimates that the number of cremations will continue to increase as the state’s inmate population ages.
“As our prison population ages, we anticipate our offender death rate to rise. This legislation provides the Department of Corrections the ability to minimize the potential cost to the state for offender cremations,” said Justin Jones, DOC Director.
According to the Department of Corrections, there were only ten cremations performed in FY ’11 at a cost of roughly $350 each or a total of $3,500. The agency expects that number to increase, however, as the number of inmates age 50 and over has steadily increased in recent decades. In 1980, there were only 85 inmates in that age bracket making up less than five percent of the prison population whereas last year there were over 3,800 making up 15 percent of the population.
SB 1069 now moves to the House for further consideration.