Inmate populations on the rise in Oklahoma

Saturday, May 18th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

McLOUD, Okla. (AP) _ The Department of Corrections is still $13.9 million short of what it needs to get through the fiscal year that ends June 30, officials said.

The Oklahoma Board of Corrections met Friday at the Central Oklahoma Correctional Facility in McLoud.

Corrections officials remain optimistic the Legislature will provide the money to make it through the year.

Legislative leaders said in the remaining days of the 2002 session, they will focus on supplemental funding for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and corrections.

Officials said they are running out of ways to cut costs.

``Even if we furloughed every employee in the Department of Corrections for 20 days, we still could not make up the deficit,'' board member Beverly Young said.

Compounding the problem is that the state's prison population continues to grow.

Oklahoma's minimum and medium security prisons are 99 percent full, according to Patty Davis, chief of the department's inmate classification and programs division.

``We are basically out of room,'' Davis said.

The inmate count grew by 186 in April and is at a higher level than it was a year ago, department records show. The prison population is 22,814.

The state has 200 private prison beds available, a number that could drop quickly if current incarceration rates continue.

At Friday's meeting, the board also approved contract extensions with its private prison contractors until May 31 or when the department runs out of money, which ever happens first.

``There's still some time left for our legislators to act,'' said Edward Evans, deputy director of administration. ``I'm hopeful they understand that.''