As you all may know the Department of Corrections (DOC) took action on the Facility Consolidation Plan this past week which closes 15 work release centers in Oklahoma. Seven of those being in southwest Oklahoma to includes our center at Weaver as well as Altus, Hobart, Hollis, Mangum, Waurika and Walters. Their plan is to rent the North Fork Correctional Facility near Sayre owned by Corrections Corporation of America (a private company) and house the medium/maximum security prisoners from the Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite there. Then move the work release prisoners from the 15 centers to the Reformatory in Granite and save millions. I’ll give you a minute to let your head stop spinning! The contract with CCA is 5.5 years with the stipulation that the DOC does not pay rent for the first 18 months.
My initial thought is that no private company makes money or stays viable giving things away for free, there will be a consequence to this that is yet to be seen causing even more financial havoc on our already struggling state.
Most importantly, many small communities just like ours will be adversely impacted by this measure. The DOC has stated that all employees will be given the opportunity to continue their jobs at the new facility which means all of these communities will not only lose their facilities but residents as well. This means tax dollars go down, the number of students in our school system go down and fewer people to purchase goods from stores that need every customer they can get. Small communities like ours cannot keep taking these punches that are being thrown our way.
The DOC also stated that communities would still be able to use inmate labor from the Prisoner Public Works Program. Well folks, Granite is roughly 63 miles from Frederick. I’m guessing the employees of the groups that use inmate labor have better things to do than drive 2 hours round trip to pick/return inmates to the facility. Who uses inmate labor around here you ask? The City of Frederick, Tillman County, the Historical Society, the Chamber of Commerce, Community Action Development Corporation, the Lake Ranger at Lake Frederick, Frederick Public Schools and the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team. Those are just the places that immediately pop into my head and it also doesn’t take into consideration the special events that the inmates help to put together. To hire workers to fill those spots would be impossible for most of these groups and they will have to lean even harder on volunteers and donations.
I could spend a whole page of this paper talking about the effect that it will have on the rehabilitation of these men. These men are serving their time and allowed to work outside of their facility in order to help train them for the job force once released. This will have disastrous ramifications to some of these guys potentially leading to further incarceration.
Many of you contacted our local Legislators to help stop this ridiculous measure before it was a done deal. Unfortunately, that while Sen Barrington, Representative Coody and several others from the area attended the DOC board meeting, the measure was “ram rodded” through by the new Director. Sen. Barrington said our next step is the Governor. The money still has to be appropriated making Gov. Fallin our last option. Our area Legislators are on our side and doing what they can to help reverse the potential damage.
This is another time when I’m asking you all to put your action where your mouth is, so to speak. Please take a moment to call, email or write to the Governor’s office and let her know as tax payers we will not stand for this. That we cannot and will not continue to support being choked out by the reckless decisions being made in our state. Below is the information to reach Gov. Fallin. I am asking you to make respectful, educated and rational pleas to her.
The Office of Governor Mary Fallin, Oklahoma State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 212, Oklahoma City, OK 73105 Local: (405) 521-2342 Fax: (405) 521-3353 or go to www.ok.gov and click on the picture of the Governor at the bottom to reach her email.