Prisons bursting at the seams while running on skeleton crews have exacerbated problems inherent in housing inmates, according to Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh. To deal with drugs, contraband, overcrowding and a justice system that keeps incarcerating people at a rate nearly unmatched in the nation and the world, the corrections department needs more money, he said.
The state Board of Corrections unanimously approved on Tuesday the Oklahoma Department of Corrections’ 2020 budget request from the State Legislature.
The $1.57-billion request includes $884 million to add 5,200 beds, $91.7 million for inmate hepatitis C treatment, $31.9 million for facility repairs, maintenance and critical needs, and $18.5 million for staff pay raises.
“This request is not a wish list,” Allbaugh said. “This is what we need. Oklahoma continues to send more people to prison, and it costs real money to house, look after, and provide those individuals medical care – all of which we are required to do.”
Tuesday’s vote took place during ODOC’s October board meeting at Northeastern Oklahoma Correctional Center in Vinita.
The request from the state’s fifth-largest agency (by appropriation) comes as it struggles with an inmate population expected to grow 2,367 inmates by 2026. As of Tuesday morning, 1,993 are housed in temporary beds, 975 sit in county jails, waiting to transfer to prison. State facilities were at 113 percent capacity Monday morning.
“We are bursting at the seams with over 27,000 inmates inside 24-facility system – and the state has made little progress on justice reform,” Allbaugh said. “As we’ve said before, reforms passed last session will help slow inmate population growth but do little to unseat Oklahoma as the world’s top incarcerator.”