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OK Prisons Over Capacity, Under Staffed, DOC Director Says

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OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma -

The head of Oklahoma's prison system said it's only a matter of time before Oklahoma sees a deadly prison riot like the one that happened in South Carolina.

A fight between rival gang members ended up with seven inmates dead and more than a dozen others hurt.

Oklahoma Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh said the risk factors are all the same - underpaid and overworked corrections officers trying to control a nonstop battle for contraband.

The DOC said Oklahoma's biggest contraband problem is cell phones. A tiny phone seized from the North Fork Correctional Center in Sayre is only about the size of your thumb.

DOC uses specially trained dogs to sniff out cell phones and drugs, but they can't catch it all.

Directors said cell phone seizures peaked in 2016. Officers removed 9,700 phones from prisons that year, plus 6,900 more in 2017.

Allbaugh said Oklahoma prisons are over capacity, and, just like South Carolina, there aren't enough officers to monitor everything.

“Our correctional officers are trained to be on the lookout for contraband, the signs, all handled by the gangs, and it’s a dangerous situation, all for $12.78 an hour. It’s pathetic,” Allbaugh said.

Allbaugh says he is grateful to the Legislature for the .96 an hour raise lawmakers recently approved for correctional officers, but that still leaves Oklahoma 14 percent below the regional average.

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