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Private prisons may get Oklahoma’s maximum security inmates

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A bill quietly moving through the Oklahoma Legislature would allow maximum security inmates to be placed in private prisons for the first time.

A system of private prisons sprung up during the administration of former Governor Frank Keating, but they were mostly designed to house medium security inmates.

A bill that passed the state Senate and is pending on the state House calendar would allow private prisons to contract with the state for maximum security inmates from Oklahoma prisons.

Poteau state Senator Kenneth Corn, who introduced the measure, says Corrections Department officials are having a difficult time managing its maximum security prisons and have asked for money to provide more than 700 new beds at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.

Corn says he'd like to oblige but doesn't know if the state House will agree to such a plan.

He says with maximum security prisons near or at capacity, his bill to use private prisons would give DOC officials flexibility to deal with overcrowding.

Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie says the agency didn't request the legislation, but are supportive of it the way it has been modified.
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