Governor’s Office Statements About DOC Way Off Base

Below is the press release sent to more than 130 media outlets regarding the statements about DOC staffing made by Steven Mullins. OPEA has also contacted the Governor’s office and key legislators to express our concern over the statements that falsely portray the staffing situations in Oklahoma’s correctional centers.

Recent statements made by Gov. Mary Fallin’s General Counsel Steven Mullins cause great concern about state leaders’ understanding of how current staffing levels in Oklahoma’s correctional centers impact public safety and the safety of the hard-working men and women who work in the centers.

According to the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, Mullins’ statement saying the governor is not concerned about the situation in prisons sends a message that Oklahoma’s correctional officers are of little importance and that they should expect to continue working short staffed; should expect to continue to work 12-hour shifts and mandatory overtime and should expect to remain at increased risk of assault by offenders due to low staffing and crowded prisons.

“It is disrespectful to the men and women working in our correctional centers across Oklahoma to say that there are no problems due to low staffing. I’ve heard from several DOC employees who say their goal every day is to make it home safely after their shift,” said Rep. Mike Christian, an OPEA member. “Working in a correctional center is already dangerous and Oklahoma has made it even more so by not staffing them adequately. For anyone to claim that the staffing levels are okay is ridiculous”.

“Employees working in the centers are at increased risk of assault every day due to being short staffed. Unfortunately, we recently had a DOC employee assaulted and many DOC employees believe it is just a matter of time before more assaults occur,” said OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley. “Also, correctional officers work long shifts and mandatory overtime that keeps them away from their loved ones because we don’t have enough correctional officers.”

“We urge Gov. Fallin to speak directly with correctional officers to hear the challenges they face daily in keeping Oklahomans safe,” Zearley said. “I believe she would come away with a different viewpoint about DOC staffing than the one she is getting from her own staff.”

Oklahoma’s correctional officers deserve better than to have state leaders who express lack of concern for the working conditions in our centers. They deserve to have all of our support and leaders who will work to ensure the safest possible conditions. They deserve to have the respect of our state leaders as they keep us safe.

Front line corrections staff frequently tell of the increased dangers that they face as they go to work. They tell of the stress placed on their families due to the increased hours that they are required to work. They tell of the frustration of not being able to work with offenders to improve the chances that they will be productive upon release.

“It is misleading, at best, for someone who is not there on a daily basis to say that staffing in our centers is adequate. Statements like these jeopardize the safety of our correctional staff and do nothing to address the challenges faced by DOC employees,” Zearley said. “OPEA encourages lawmakers to visit any of the correctional centers to view first-hand the conditions in which our correctional officers work.”


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