OPEA Supports Corrections’ Board on Private Prison Rates

At their February meeting the Board of Corrections discussed need for more information on how costs are calculated by private prison corporations. The Board adopted an average rate of $54.82 a day for medium security prisoners.

Board member Ernest Godlove voted against accepting the motion, citing lack of information used to calculate the rate. David Miller, the warden at a private prison in Lawton, balked at supplying the needed information to the Board saying the corporation is a private business and is not obligated to provide the information.

Representative Mike Shelton is carrying legislation for the Oklahoma Public Employees Association to help corrections officials obtain the information they need from private prison corporations. HB 2129 requires transparency from private prison contractors in reporting violations and in the ways they are spending taxpayers’ money. This important legislation has been assigned to the House Rules Committee and may not get a public hearing.

Oklahoma began contracting for private prison beds in 1996. Since that time, the number of inmates housed in private facilities throughout Oklahoma has escalated to 6,000, at a cost of $78 million a year.

“Private prisons receive public money to operate,” said OPEA Deputy Director Scott Barger. “But they are not required to disclose information about their daily operations. OPEA believes the veil of secrecy surrounding private facilities should be lifted and that these companies should be held accountable to the people of Oklahoma.”

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