Senator Kenneth Corn and other members of the Senate stood outside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary (OSP) in McAlester this afternoon and vowed to continue fighting for adequate funding for Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) and promised to work diligently to bring a comprehensive solution to a funding problem that plagues the department year after year.
“We just walked the halls of the OSP during a shift where the ratio of correctional officers to prisoners is one to 22,” Corn, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee on Public Safety and Judiciary said. “That is totally unacceptable, and we must turn our attention to this problem right now. We can’t ‘wait until next year,’ as Speaker Hiett has suggested.”
The lawmaker said according to figures from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC), the average ratio of correctional officers to inmates in Oklahoma prisons is one to 50. He said he was alarmed to learn the highest figures show one correctional officer is responsible for 122 inmates.
“With numbers that high, we are extremely close to putting lives in danger,” Corn said.
The Democrat from Poteau said people choose to live in this state because Oklahoma is a safe place to raise a family.
“We need to do whatever we can to keep our communities safe,” Corn said. “That is why we must address this problem now. Because ignoring the funding crisis at DOC does nothing to help keep our communities safe.”
President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan has given the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety and Judiciary until July 14th to come up with a comprehensive solution to address the needs of DOC.
“Others might choose to sit idly by and do nothing about this issue,” Morgan, (D-Stillwater) said. “But the Senate will be working diligently to fix this problem during special session, as Governor Henry has directed us to do.”