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Oklahoma's prison population overflowing

HOLDENVILLE, Okla. (AP) _ Oklahoma's prisons are full and 1,420 offenders in county jails are awaiting transfer into the system, the Board of Corrections was told during its regular meeting.

``We are in a bad situation,'' said Patty Davis, Oklahoma Department of Corrections chief administrator of classification and programs.

Almost every week in recent months, the department has had to cancel scheduled transfers into state prisons from county jails, she told the board Friday during its meeting at the Davis Correctional Facility, a private prison in Holdenville.

``We know every facility is full,'' Davis said.

The message is not new to board members. Every year the capacity of the system is pushed to the limits, only to be bailed out by supplemental funding increases.

This year appears to be more problematic as the department struggles with a growing staff vacancy rate. The Legislature has yet to vote on a budget for the Department of Corrections. Legislative leaders said it is expected to contain a 2 percent daily rate increase for private prison vendors.

``These sheriffs, I imagine, aren't very happy when we tell them there is not room at the inn,'' Corrections Board Chairman David C. Henneke said.

Henneke said that when he was appointed to the board, the number of offenders backed up in county jails was 300 to 400, a figure he watched rise on a yearly basis.

``We all know the number is not going to go down,'' he said.

DOC Director Ron Ward said the four private facilities that Oklahoma contracts with to house state inmates also are full. Another facility in Sayre, which closed, could have held 1,440 offenders, Ward said. Another private facility houses offenders from out of state.

Meanwhile, the agency is projected to end the current fiscal year with a balance of only $2,857 on the books, said Ed Evans, DOC deputy director of administration.
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