The results of the preliminary architectural and engineering study didn’t surprise anyone at OPEA. According to the report 17 percent of the buildings at the state’s prisons were in need of major repair or needed to be torn down.
“OPEA has issued many articles, papers and press releases about this issue in the past several years,” said OPEA Deputy Director Scott Barger. “There has been a lack of commitment from the legislature to fund any new public prisons or to provide the funding necessary to maintain current infrastructure. Our members in DOC have been working in some of the most dilapidated structures in state government.”
Barger said the initial report obtained by OPEA ranked the 402 buildings at the state’s 17 prisons on a scale of one to four.
“A four rating meant a building was in need of major renovation or needed to be torn down,” Barger said. “We have been told by our sources that the report is not final and that additional revisions are possible.”
- A study of the 402 buildings at the state’s 17 correctional facilities shows:
- 24 percent received a rating of one, meaning they were new or needed minimal repairs.
- 59 percent received a rating of two, meaning one-third of the building systems needed major repair.
- 10 percent received a rating of three, meaning two-thirds of the building systems needed major repair.
- 7 percent received a rating of four, meaning the building needed major renovation or to be torn down.
According to OPEA, the hardest hit facilities were the James Crabtree Correctional Center where 10 of the 30 buildings were rated in poor condition. Mack Alford Correctional Center where 17 of 35 buildings were rated in poor condition. Oklahoma State Penitentiary where nine of 20 were rated poor and Oklahoma State Reformatory where eight of 29 were rated in poor condition.
“I think the report mostly confirms what we suspected,” said Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore. “DOC facilities are not in the best or absolute worst of shape.”
According to OPEA the state legislature could use this report to make key decisions about the direction of corrections in Oklahoma.
“We could see the legislature do nothing, tear down some buildings, add public beds to existing facilities, or contract with private prisons for more beds,” said Barger. “We are very concerned that Oklahoma private prisons have 2,500 empty beds and that there may be a push to close state operated prisons and move these inmates to private prisons. State employees could lose jobs and communities could lose a major employer if this were to occur.”
Barger points to Kansas, California, Colorado, Michigan, Georgia and Illinois who are considering or already implementing prison closures.
“This is a very pivotal time in our state’s corrections history and one where corrections employees need to be united with the only organization fighting for their jobs at the state Capitol,” said Barger. “With the budget situation showing a continued down-hill slide, there will be private prison lobbyist at every legislator’s doorway recommending the closure of a state prison to fill the private profiteer’s pockets. We need to be very careful and state correctional employees need to be with OPEA.”
OPEA will keep DOC employees informed as the staff continues to develop information on this very serious issue.