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The Oklahoma Public Employees Association expressed its concern over furloughs within the Oklahoma Department of Corrections saying not only are the furloughs dangerous, but they also create employee disparity.

“We have a key public safety agency which is staffed at around 68 percent,” said OPEA executive director Sterling Zearley. “Then add in a monthly pay cut and you have a critical situation that is not being taken seriously by decision makers.”

“The leadership in this State must come to an agreement about a supplemental appropriation for DOC which will allow Director Jones to bring these furloughs to an end and increase the safety within our prisons,” said Zearley.

While staff salaries are being cut, the number of inmates coming into the system is continuing to increase. “This is creating a very bad situation, not only for the employees but for the safety of the citizens of the state,” Zearley said.

OPEA also points to the labor disparity in how the furloughs are being implemented.

“It appears this furlough plan also creates what we believe is a very arbitrary and discriminatory practice related to employees who are similarly situated,” said Zearley. “Since Correctional officers are being allowed to work overtime to replace furloughed staff, the brunt of the furloughs are being borne by non-uniformed staff such as unit managers, maintenance, food service, case managers and many other staff who have the same risk and exposure to inmates but may not be eligible to work overtime to supplement the cost of the furloughs.”

“Without equivocating, these furloughs are simply unnecessary, dangerous and jeopardizes public safety,” said Zearley. “We are calling on the agency to suspend the furloughs and the legislature to properly fund corrections.”

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