Corrections board to consider privatizing community correctional, work centers

Wednesday, July 26th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- The Oklahoma Board of Corrections will consider this week whether to privatize the state's community correctional centers and work centers. The board will take up a request for proposals to privatize five community corrections centers and 15 work centers at its meeting on Thursday, said David Miller, the Department of Correction's chief of administrative operations.

In all, the facilities have about 1,579 beds, Miller said. State Rep. Tim Pope, who requested that board members consider the proposal, said there are a number of systems and buildings that could be operated privately at a much greater savings. "I have talked to several private companies. They would takeover management of the facilities and only charge for the beds which are full," Pope, R-Mustang, said. "They can do it cheaper. It just made sense to take an opportunity to look at it."

Currently, the DOC pays for every bed it has, whether it's being occupied by an inmate or not, Pope said. The department budgeted in fiscal year 2000 to spend $9.7 million for community correctional centers. In March, the DOC moved thousands of inmates to lower security levels by making changes to its inmate classification system. The move was in response to scrutiny by state lawmakers who were critical of how much the state was spending to house inmates in private medium-security facilities across the state.

As of June 29, 5,672 state inmates were housed in private prisons: Central Oklahoma Correctional Facility in McLoud; Cimarron Correctional Facility in Cushing; Davis Correctional Facility in Holdenville; Diamondback Correctional Facility in Watonga; Great Plains Correctional Facility in Hinton, and Lawton Correctional Facility.

State employees would be allowed to show that the DOC's operating costs are competitive with private vendor proposals, Miller said. "Any external vendors would have to submit a proposal," Miller said. "Then you would have to compare those." The Board of Corrections will meet at the Howard McLeod Correctional Center, just east of Atoka.