The Oklahoma Department of Corrections’ effort to shift thousands of state prisoners out of county jails has resulted in nearly two-thirds of state prisons being over capacity.
The Corrections Department is placing many inmates in designated “temporary” beds in various common areas of prisons, such as a gymnasium or day room.
In a related move, the agency is proposing to revise how it determines the maximum capacity of its prisons, by using a higher “operational” capacity that includes temporary beds, on top of the current “rated design capacity” — the number of inmates a facility is designed to hold. Under operational capacity, the current reported percentages of occupancy at many prisons could drop from over to under 100 percent.
The recent inmate population growth is raising concerns from the head of the state correctional officers’ group, who says safety is being compromised because inmates are being added while correctional staffing levels remain inadequate.
“I think it’s absolutely putting them (officers) in a dangerous spot,” said Sean Wallace, director of Oklahoma Correctional Professionals. “I’ve heard it from staff before … but now I’m hearing it directly from officers – they’re afraid to go to work.”
According to the corrections department’s Aug. 4 count of inmates, 16 of the state’s 24 minimum-, medium- and maximum-security prisons were at more than 100 percent capacity. The number slipped to 15 the following week. Five facilities had more than 100 inmates above their official capacity limits.