OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The Oklahoma Department of Corrections has withheld more than $589,000 in payments to private prison operators in the past year because of staffing shortages, including a lack of medical personnel.
Corrections Corporation of America said it has had difficulty filling medical positions because of a nationwide shortage.
The Nashville, Tenn.-based company operates the Cimarron Correctional Facility in Cushing and the Davis Correctional Facility in Holdenville, which have been tardy in filling vacancies.
In addition to the money it has already withheld, the DOC has another $50,000 in fines pending for November.
The DOC has withheld payments to private prisons in 28 instances since last December for failing to fill positions in a timely manner.
The department's decision to penalize private prisons financially for contract violations stems from a recommendation made in a performance audit of the Department of Corrections requested last year by the Oklahoma Legislature.
Corrections Corporation of America spokesman Steve Owen said the company is making a good faith effort to fill its medical services vacancies as quickly as possible. Until the positions are filled, Owen said the facilities will hire part-time employees or pay overtime to prevent a drop-off in services.
The state has 4,540 inmates housed in three private prisons in the state. Besides the CCA facilities in Cushing and Holdenville, the third private prison that contracts with DOC is the Lawton Correctional Facility.
The Lawton facility has had about $23,000 in fines since last December, including about $10,000 that is pending for November. The facility is owned by the GEO Group Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla.