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Prison Population At 98% Capacity

Updated:
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Oklahoma Department of Corrections officials have been able to stem the flow of inmates into state prisons, but the number of prisoners continued to exceed available bed space, officials said. As of midnight Tuesday, there 24,131 inmates in the prison system, including 17,683 in state facilities, said Jerry Massie, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Another 6,448 are being housed in private prisons, contract beds in county jails and halfway houses, Massie said.

The 24,131 puts state prison at 97.77% capacity, he said. Capacity is considered to be 97%, since some beds must remain vacant for inmates who must be isolated or are temporarily away from prison for court appearances.

"We're just trying to control the amount of receptions to match what he have in terms of bed space," Massie said.

There are still 1,200 inmates in county jails, not counting those who are there because the state is paying jails to house them, Massie said.

The Corrections Department will receive $9.6 million to help pay its bills during the current fiscal year. Corrections officials had requested $47 million in emergency funding to deal with inmate overcrowding and other issues.

Sen. Richard Lerblance, D-Hartshorne, said he didn't know what other amount of funding may be coming for the agency, nor whether it would be enough to fund it through the end of the upcoming fiscal year.

"Our past track record has been we never fully fund them and they have to come back for more," Lerblance said.

Federal court intervention may follow if legislators don't address the issue sooner rather than later, Lerblance said.

"What are we going to do with the people? We're starting to back up in the county jails," he said.

Some funding has been provided for county sheriffs to house inmates, but that takes away space needed to house people who, in some cases, have to serve up to a year in jail, Lerblance said.

In addition, the new illegal immigration law will mean those who can't prove their citizenship will be detained, he said.

"They're considered to be a flight risk, which means a high bond that they're probably not going to be able to post. They'll be parked at the county jails until deportation takes place, he said.

As for private prisons, the three facilities state presently contracts with are full, Massie said.

The agency was in negotiations recently to continue housing state prison inmates at the Great Plains Correctional Facility, but they couldn't reach terms and more than 800 inmates were removed.

Great Plains closed its doors for several weeks but recently announced it had reached an agreement to house prisoners from Arizona, which agreed to pay between $54.50 and $56.95 per inmate per day.

"We pay about $45 a day per prisoner," he said. "They (the Legislature) approve the funding. If you increase it very much you want their OK on it."


Related Stories:

2/7/2007 Prison Problem Task Force Proposed

5/3/2007 Prison Growth To Continue Skyrocketing, Panel Predicts

5/4/2007 Prison Overload

5/12/2007 Prison Overcrowding Dilemma Looms For State

5/13/2007 State Prison Overcrowding
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