Department Of Corrections Director: "State Prison System Is a Sinking Ship"

Friday, November 18th 2016, 8:49 pm

By: News On 6

The Oklahoma Board of Corrections voted to ask for nearly $1.6 billion for the Department of Corrections next fiscal year. 

That's $1.1 billion more than its request for the current year. 

The D.O.C. didn't even get $485 million this year because of the state's billion-dollar budget hole. 

The new director of the Department of Corrections said that money is badly needed. 

Joe Allbaugh, Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director, said Oklahoma's criminal justice center needs a massive overhaul. 

Joe Allbaugh has been on the job for nine months and said the state's prison system isn't just a listing ship, it's a sinking ship.

"We have a mentality, much like Texas, lock em up and throw away the key," Allbaugh said. 

He said the problem with that mentality is 94 percent of the people who go to prison in Oklahoma eventually get released. But, he said prisons don't have the money to educate or train them. Plus, he said they had to move bunk beds into those spaces anyway because of overcrowding.

"They'll return to society and live next to you or me or Alex and we all want good neighbors," Allbaugh said. "So, it's incumbent on the state to stop warehousing people and throw some money at  educating our people or train them with some type of skill."

He said the overcrowding is bad for several reasons. First, there are not enough correctional officers, so prisoners join gangs for safety, which creates hardened criminals. Second, the corrections officers, who are only armed with self-defense training and pepper spray, are in danger.

"Every minute of every day they're behind the wall, their life is at risk," Allbaugh said. 

He said hiring more people is tough because the pay is so low. He said of their 4,000 employees, 36 percent of them qualify for food stamps. 

The director said he understands all state agencies face problems and there's a budget crisis, but he said lawmakers need to prioritize their spending and he thinks protecting the public should be a top priority. 

Allbaugh said there are currently 60,000 people in prison or are on supervision, and that number grows by about 130 every day. 


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