KGOU

Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Every new male inmate in the Oklahoma prison system arrives through this gate at the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center in Cleveland County. Blood is drawn from inmates for testing and certain results can lead to further tests for hepatitis C.
Oklahoma Watch

Inmates in Oklahoma prisons must have advanced liver disease before becoming eligible for treatment of hepatitis C, a potentially deadly and growing disease.

The situation in prisons pits the enormous cost of treatment against the public health gains of curing one of the populations most at risk for the viral infection.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh
Sue Ogrocki / AP

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections wants out of the state’s unified information technology system. Corrections director Joe Allbaugh criticized how the Office of Management and Enterprise Services runs the IT system during an interim legislative hearing Monday.

Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh speaks to members on the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee on October 19, 2016
Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

Oklahoma’s Department of Corrections says one of its biggest challenges is recruiting and retaining employees.

During an interim study Wednesday, Prison Director Joe Allbaugh told lawmakers turnover for the agency is roughly 28 percent. Correctional officers in particular, Allbaugh said, are even harder to retain. Turnover for those positions is approaching 40 percent.

He blamed the high-stress nature of the job combined with low-pay and long hours and said many cadets have a false idea of what being a prison officer entails.  

Counselor Donte Chattman stands outside the cabins at New Day Camp on Lake Texoma
Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

Kristen Harlin speeds a golf cart through the grassy fields overlooking Lake Texoma in Kingston. It’s muggy and hot and the sun is relentless. Harlin is the executive director of New Day Camp, a summer camp for children with incarcerated parents.

“All the campers here have the same, common thing going on in their life (sic). So if you get that stigma gone right away, they don't feel like they're the different person in the cabin,” Harlin says.

Leaders address incarceration as soon as kids step off the bus. Then it’s onto normal camp activities.

Gregory Smith
Oklahoma Department of Corrections

An Oklahoma inmate died Wednesday night after a disturbance broke out at the Mack Alford Correctional Center in Stringtown.

In a press release describing the incident, Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh called the knife fight “senseless violence” and vowed to look for a motive.

“We have launched a full-scale investigation into the situation,” Allbaugh said. “We will ensure the proper measures are taken to better manage these situations in the future.”

Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

Oklahoma’s Department of Corrections begins moving inmates Tuesday to a newly leased private facility in far western Oklahoma, where state employees will run the prison. The agreement between the state and Corrections Corporation of America is a first in Oklahoma’s prison system.

 

The Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy.
Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Inmates at a northeast Oklahoma prison are dealing with a waterline break that's affecting services. Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terri Watkins says the problem started over the weekend with a water leak on the grounds of the Dick Conner Correction Center in Osage County.

"We got the water restored, then there was a leak inside the community of Hominy,” Watkins said. “So they are working to fix that, but in the meantime, it brought down the water levels in the water tower at the facility, which is used to pressurize the water line."

State Rep. Bobby Cleveland stands outside Cimarron Correctional Facility in Cushing in June 2016
Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections uses three private prisons, run by two companies, to help ease overcrowding. There are contracts in place to ensure the facilities abide by state rules, but the state doesn’t always take options available to it when private facilities fail to live up to their obligations.

‘Very dangerous prison’

 

Oklahoma State Capitol
ensign_beedrill / Flickr Creative Commons

A group of lawmakers met at the State Capitol Tuesday to talk about withholding the state budget allocation for the Department of Corrections. The move comes after the agency opted last week to shutter more than a dozen work centers and relocate inmates to a prison in Granite. 

mikecogh / Flickr.com

Oklahoma’s Board of Corrections unanimously approved leasing a private prison in Sayre and consolidating 15 work release centers across the state Thursday, a decision that left many legislators scrambling and upset.

Under the five-year contract, the Department of Correction would transfer roughly 1200 inmates from the Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite to North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre. Inmates in work release programs across the state would be relocated to Granite.

Cassie Cramer works with 8-month-old Mastiff mix Kingston on April 15, 2016
Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

Cassie Cramer takes a break from walking the prison yard at Oklahoma’s Mabel Bassett Correctional Center. She’s training an 8-month-old Mastiff mix named Kingston. Cramer pulls treats out of her pocket and encourages the puppy to show off.

“Down. Good girl! Bang,” Cramer told the dog. “This is her new trick: you shoot her and she'll fall over. She's so smart!”

Pups In Prison 

Wesley Fryer / Flickr

Lawmakers passed a series of bills yesterday designed to ease the severe overcrowding in Oklahoma’s prisons. Gov. Mary Fallin outlined her goal to reduce Oklahoma's incarceration rate during her State of the State address in February. Oklahoma has the highest number of females behind bars per capita in the U.S., and the rate of incarcerated men ranks near the top as well.

Wesley Fryer / Flickr

Oklahoma’s three privately-operated prisons house roughly one-third of the state’s imprisoned population and cost the Department of Corrections more than $92 million last year. But a recently released video offers a glimpse into a series of violent disturbances at one facility.

 

The video, from what appears to be a contraband cell phone, shows a group of inmates throwing another prisoner over a balcony onto the floor below.

Oklahoma Capitol
ensign_beedrill / Flickr Creative Commons

Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders announced an agreement on Wednesday to help state schools and prisons avoid additional mid-year cuts. The state will withdraw $51 million from the Rainy Day Fund for the Department of Education and another $27.5 million for the Department of Corrections.

Joe Allbaugh
Greg Schaler / FEMA

State agency heads went before the Budget and Appropriations’ Public Safety Subcommittee meeting Thursday to argue their case as lawmakers try to close a huge budget hole. 

Department of Corrections Interim Director Joe Allbaugh spoke candidly about many of the challenges his department faces. The state prison system is currently at 122 percent capacity, and he said DOC might need to convert current classrooms to open-bay dorms to house offenders.

Kris Steele introduces members of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform
Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

A new coalition aimed at reforming Oklahoma's criminal justice system launched a ballot initiative Wednesday morning. Business, legislative and faith leaders joined together with corrections reform experts to reduce the prison population and save money. 

Oklahoma death row inmates Jeremy Williams (left) and Richard Fairchild (right).
Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Two death row inmates have exhausted their appeals, but won’t have execution dates set just yet as Oklahoma continues investigating what went wrong during two executions attempted in 2015.

On Friday the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals issued an order for stays of execution for Jeremy Williams and Richard Fairchild. The Court released that document to the public Monday.