The Oklahoma State Department of Corrections say it needs more money.
DOC is asking the state to triple its budget.
DOC Director Joe Allbaugh says that if the state doesn’t start investing in its prison system, it’s just a matter of time before corrections officers are hurt or killed.
The DOC says that state prisons are currently operating at 153% capacity. The agency is asking for $1.5 billion to build new prisons, provide corrections officers with much needed training, and give corrections staff raises – so they can attract and retain good people.
Allbaugh says, “our folks are only armed with their self-defense training, a can of pepper spray, and a wing and a prayer that someone will come and help them if they get in trouble.”
According to Allbaugh, the agency needs two new facilities to house an exploding inmate population.
Building two new prisons would cost about $800 million.
For the first time, a senate appropriations committee indicated the state might be willing to borrow that money through bonding.
Senator Kim David, Appropriations Committee Chair, asked Allbaugh if he has explored issues surrounding bonding for these financial needs.
Allbaugh responded that he is “trying to ascertain the appetite for a bond issue, but…doesn’t see it in either house.
David says the Senate does “have an appetite if the need is there and if you can come to us with a plan.”