Why does Oklahoma need $1 billion more for corrections? It’s on track to lead the U.S. in incarceration, DOC director says: He said that Oklahoma’s incarceration rate ranks second in the nation.
By Barbara Hoberock Tulsa World Jan 16, 2018
OKLAHOMA CITY — The head of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections had a message for lawmakers on Tuesday: The state needs two new prisons to handle its still-problematic prisoner population, and the facilities it does have need millions in repairs. The price tag for all that, DOC Director Joe Allbaugh reported: $1.5 billion for the upcoming fiscal year, an increase of slightly more than $1 billion from last year. Allbaugh made his comments to a joint legislative panel as part of ongoing budget hearings at the Capitol. He recounted problems at the agency such as crumbling facilities, inadequate programs, high staff turnover due to low pay and a soaring prison population. When asked after the meeting about seeking such a big increase at a time when the state is dealing with large budget holes, Allbaugh said funding is the responsibility of elected officials. “I am asking for what the agency needs,” he said. “It is not up to me to figure out how to fund government.” Allbaugh said he has been realistic about the state of the Department of Corrections, “which is less than poor.” He said Oklahoma’s incarceration rate ranks second in the nation. The prison system is operating at 112 percent of capacity; without the use of three private prisons, the figure would be 151 percent, Allbaugh said. Allbaugh said in a statement that the department expects “Oklahoma’s incarceration rate to eventually be the country’s highest” because of “limited results of criminal justice reform in our state.” The bulk of the agency’s budget request, some $813 million, is to build one male and one female prison to accommodate population growth. Given the difficulty in hiring staff in rural areas, a new prison would need to be built near a metropolitan area, Allbaugh said. The agency also is seeking slightly more than $10 million for salary increases and benefits. “We don’t have enough correctional officers and we don’t pay them very well,” he said. The agency pays starting correctional officers $12.78 an hour. Even convenience stores pay more, Allbaugh said, while jobs in the oil and gas industry pay over $20 an hour. About 74 percent of the agency’s correctional officers have been with the agency less than five years, according to the DOC. In fiscal year 2017, correctional officer turnover was 25 percent. During fiscal year 2017, the agency received and processed 9,683 offenders, and since 2008, paroles have dropped 77 percent, he said. The agency’s request includes $107 million for repairs and upgrades to facilities. Allbaugh showed lawmakers pictures of leaking roofs at William S. Key Correctional Center in Fort Supply and a failing floor in the control room at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. In addition to the agency’s staffing woes, about 20 percent of the prison population is affiliated with a gang, Allbaugh said. Gangs are responsible for bringing in most of the contraband into the system, he said. “It is ugly,” Allbaugh said. Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, said the DOC’s situation cries out for criminal justice reform and tax reform.
Allbaugh said “Oklahoma’s incarceration rate to eventually be the country’s highest” (Hoderock 2018)
Director Allbaugh reports to Oklahoma law makers on January 16, 2018 in an ongoing budget hearing, reporting the necessity of an increase from last years reported fiscal budget. Allbaugh stated examples like the condition of facilities, cuts in programing for offenders, continuing turn overs on staffing levels, and over population that is steadily growing. “Why does Oklahoma need $1 billion more for corrections?” (Hoberock 2018) With the incarceration rate continuing to rise Allbaugh is requesting the extension of funds for the construction of 2 prisons to accommodate the rise in populations. There is a great need for pay increases and benefits for Correctional Officer. Incarceration rate is steadily becoming one of the highest in the U.S. Allbaugh stated “The agency’s pay starting correctional officers $12.78 an hour.” As there are job available in Oklahoma that pay over $20 an hour staff retention is an issue. “Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, said the DOC’s situation cries out for criminal justice reform and tax reform.” (Hoberock 2018)
The state of Oklahoma is undergoing the longstanding budget crisis. “The Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh reported: $1.5 billion for the upcoming fiscal year, an increase of slightly more than $1 billion from the last year.” (Hoberock 2018) This request for grant includes the funding for two new medium security prisons, mental health program, and substance abuse programs. This request includes a budget of $107 million for repairing its facilities and $10 million to give raises to its employees. According to Director Joe M. Allbaugh, this budget demonstrates their current wants and needs. Funding the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is a necessary action and would enhance the facilities and services that are offered. Oklahoma struggles to locate the necessary funding for State Agencies. Currently the State Legislator and Governor of Oklahoma are examining all aspects of the State’s financial avenues. What areas of the Department of Corrections that are demanding attention to be resolved? What are the consequences of the underfunding of the Department of Corrections?
Hoberock, B. (2018). Tulsa World Why does Oklahoma need $1 billion more for Corrections?
It’s on track to lead the U.S. in incarceration, DOC director says: He said that Oklahoma’s incarceration rate ranks second in the nation. Web Page, Retrieved 16 January 2018, from http://www.tulsaworld.com/homepagelatest/why-does-oklahoma-need-billion-more-for-corrections-it-s/article