Opening the meting Justin Jones Director of the Department of Corrections introduced OPEA Membership Representative Rick Allen as a retired DOC employee who now works for OPEA.
Mr. Jones went on to report that there were eight offenders at Fredrick Community Work Center who just completed the Re-Entry Program and classes were being held in Healdton and Ardmore Community Work Centers.
53 cadets were graduating form Wilburton Academy and that this would bring the Department to its 81% capacity of FTE. Mr. Jones did state that there is a hiring freeze but that the department would continue to hire cadets.
Neville Massey, Executive Assistant spoke on Legislative issues stating that there are to date 2608 Bills up for before committees. Ms. Massey stated that this was a 10% increase form last year at this time. Eight Bills concerning DOC have been filed and heard. Privatization of the Facility Canteens passed thru committee. Ms. Massey assured the Board that no state employees would lose their job in this transition. The well sought out pay raise has been signed to committee but Ms. Massey failed to state if it was a departmental bill. The cell phone bill is being re-vamped to make the possessing of a cell phone in a facility a felony. Without going into detail Ms. Massey stated that there were a few bills of interest to be watched and named one as HB 6047.
Ken Klinger, Chief Operations Services gave the populations for December 2008 totaling with in the control of the Department of Corrections at 55,000 offenders. This is a net decline from one year ago by 171 offenders.
GEO has purchased more property in Oklahoma but at this point has no plans for a building project. There are more vacant private beds open now due to the decrease of some states placing offenders in Oklahoma. The economy in other states may be a contributing factor. California for example is dealing with there own law which states it’s unconstitutional for them to place offenders in Oklahoma private prisons. Vermont is showing that they are in a no growth stage.
Mention of using the increasing number of private beds to alleviate the overcrowding of County Jails is not that easy of an issue to do. There are a certain number of DOC employees that their only job criteria is to in process and test new offenders. All females are now being sent to Mable Bassett for reception and initial testing. There are only so many offenders that can be processed per-day without hiring more staff to do the job. There was no mention of hiring more staff.
Greg Sawyer, Chief of Departmental Services asking to adopt private prison bed rates. But there was opposition from Population/Private Prisons Member Ernest Godlove. Mr. Godlove wants an even playing field,” Are we comparing apples to apples”, such as wanting to know if privates pay a loran on taxes, due they receive local incentivizes, they are not given critical or long term healthcare offenders, do they pay full price on water and utilities and take them into direct cost. Mr. Evans, Associate Director of DOC and Dave Miller of GEO Group from Lawton was drawn into the conversation as well. Mr. Miller stated that he will work with DOC but went on the defensive of making a full disclosure of GEO Groups budget. Mr. Miller stated that when he worked for DOC that there was no real way to determine an exact number for the cost of perdieum of an offender. Mr. Evans stated that without full disclosure of private prisons budget that there was no way to determine if the cost of DOC & private prisons were comparing apples to apples.
Mathew Mcbee, Chairperson of the Population/Private Prisons asks for the private prisons to disclose the information for clear picture of private prisons perdieum bases. Greg Sawyer asks the board,” What if they fail to disclose the information”. Mr.Godlove stated that you put a letter of that effect into your report”. Mr. Mcbee stated, “First I want you to send the privates a letter asking for that information. If they fail to disclose the information you ask for then I want you to add a letter to your report of that nature.
Justin Jones once again spoke and talked about policy changes. Mostly said by Mr. Jones was some of the wording. Policies affected were OP-040100 Security Standards for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, OP-060100 Classification and Case Management of Offenders, OP-010300 Mission and Organization of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, OP-110300 Drug Free Workplace Program, OP-160100 Purpose and Function of probation and Parole. Not mentioned by Mr. Jones was how the wording was more specific of some of the defined duties of the staff. The mission change was more of an education and re-entry of offender’s statement. Which I must agree is part of the needed recidivism formula. Overall the wording change is more defining but could also be used as a tool, such as a hammer for employees. I don’t think I totally agree with the overall usage of some of the changes
Scott Stieg, Education Coordinator Community Corrections spoke on the achievements of the overall program. One of the concerns mention was the transfer of offenders prior to the offender being able to complete the program. Also mentioned was that there was not sufficient equipment such as computers for offenders to utilize as training aids.
David Henneke, Chair Person of Population/Private Prisons asks what the average school level most offenders were coming into the prisons. The reply was 6.5 and that most coming in with GED was at 9th grade levels. There about 1200 GEDs being received by state offenders per year out of the 7200 that are tested each year. It was expanded that some offenders I.Q. will not allow for them to be able to obtain a GED and this is about 10% of the offender population. Mr. Ted Logan, Acting Board of Corrections Chair asks why DOC uses the Adult Basic Education Program. The reply was that in 1993 the Literacy Act was introduced and it allowed that all offenders would be afforded the minimum of an 8th grade education while incarcerated. It was also noted that the state receives10% of the states grants for the Adult Education Centers. The offender population gets 5% of that total and that the Education Department is asking for 9% of the total. The Education Department is also looking for used computers for their education classes.
The meeting was adjourned for Executive Session.