The State Senate on Monday approved legislation that would reduce the minimum age for correctional officers and guards from 21 to 20.
Requested by the Department of Corrections, SB 1468 is intended to broaden the pool of eligible candidates for employment in corrections facilities and assist an agency experiencing a significant labor shortage.
Sen. Mike Schulz, author of the measure, said the Legislature needs to take swift action in addressing the labor shortage, and work toward a comprehensive plan to deal with the many issues currently faced by the agency.
“It was important for us to pass this bill as quickly as possible because our corrections employees need relief,” said Schulz, R-Altus. “With facilities already burdened by overcrowding, a lack of guards and officers presents a dangerous security risk. This bill is an important step toward remedying the problem.”
Schulz pointed to the state’s high incarceration rates in reference to the need for adequately staffed facilities. Oklahoma’s incarceration rates have been among the highest in the nation and the state currently leads the nation in per capita imprisonment of women.
“Each passing year this employment trend continues, it becomes significantly more dangerous not only for our corrections employees but for the public as a whole,” Schulz said. “I’m pleased we were able to approve this bill and hope it enjoys the same broad bi-partisan support in the House as it has in the Senate.”
The measure will now advance to the House for consideration.