OPEA Calls for End of DOC Furloughs at Capitol Press Conference

The Oklahoma Public Employees Association and employees from the Department of Corrections held a press conference on Monday October 18 to call on the Department to suspend mandatory furloughs and also to call on the legislative leadership to provide for supplemental funding to DOC.

OPEA invited employees to come to the capitol and tell their stories of how the furloughs were affecting them and their families. The employees spoke of safety concerns and the financial impact of the furloughs.

Chad Reid, Correctional Officer IV at Lexington Assessment and Reception (LARC) spoke of being a single parent and the fact that he sometimes goes days with out seeing his son. “Daddy, when are you going to spend the night with me,” his son asked after his dad had worked overnight three nights in a row.

Kent Peck, a Unit Manager at LARC talked about the issues of trying to staff a unit with low staff and the financial impact it is having on the secretaries as well as the officers.

About 30 DOC employees were joined by OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley to call on the Department to suspend the furloughs as soon as possible. In addition, OPEA is calling for the next legislative leadership to provide the estimated $9 million it would take to cover the furloughs.

Teresa Mathews spoke of the financial challenges she and her husband face each month with the furloughs and that if they are required to take three days a moth in March they will lose about $10,000 a year. She also likened the situation to a bridge that is having the supports knocked out from under it, while additional weight is being added to the top.

“The furloughs are creating an unsafe workplace for employees,” Zearley added. “I want the public to know that it is an increased burden on ALL employees of the department.”

Reporters from the Associated Press, Channels 5, 9, 2 in Tulsa, the Journal Record, Tulsa World, Daily Oklahoman, E-Capitol News, Capitol Beat OK, were on hand to cover the press conference.

Following the press conference, Rep. Randy Terrill, Chair of the House Public Safety and Judiciary Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee, released a statement to the press.

“Currently, the Department of Corrections is the only public-safety and law-enforcement agency undergoing furloughs,” Terrill said. “Given that those furloughs are occurring at a time when the agency is already short-staffed and inmate numbers are climbing, I do not believe that practice makes sense and could increase the danger to correctional officers, the public and even inmates. I am aware of the situation and agree that the Legislature, including newly elected members, needs to discuss supplemental funding and try to reach an agreement shortly after the November elections to hopefully prevent further furloughs and maintain public safety.”

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