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Oklahoma State Senate
Communications Division
State Capitol
Oklahoma City, OK 73105

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For Immediate Release: February 13, 2008

Sen. Jim Wilson, with Senators Kenneth Corn, Richard Lerblance and Constance Johnson,
expresses concerns regarding corrections funding on Wednesday at the Capitol.

Correctional Officers Worry Prison Crisis may Worsen with Latest Budget News

With Monday’s announcement that Legislators will actually have $195 million less to spend for the coming budget, employees with the State Department of Corrections worry their officers will be placed in even greater danger as a result. Sen. Jim Wilson said Tuesday the problem has been ignored far too long.

“The Department of Corrections always gets moved to the backburner when lawmakers are scrambling for dollars,” said Wilson, D-Tahlequah. “But we can no longer afford to balance the budget on the backs of corrections employees. They’re working in dangerous conditions and its only getting worse.”

Wilson noted during a public hearing two years ago at the State Capitol corrections employees explained how dangerous the situation had become, with one officer responsible for approximately 160 inmates, and sometimes as many as 220.

Lt. William Weldon, a 22-year DOC correctional supervisor, said he is extremely concerned about the safety of his officers.

“We’re working understaffed, with officers forced to work double-shifts at most facilities. Morale is at an all-time low because of our chronic funding problems and what seems to be the lack of concern for our plight,” Weldon said. “I can’t stress this enough—this is a dangerous situation for us.”

Wilson said even though the recent independent DOC audit validated what he and others have been saying for years regarding the understaffing, underfunding and inadequate facilities, he remains concerned that those warnings would continue to go unheeded.

“When I worked for the Oklahoma Crime Commission, I was at McAlester during the prison riots in the 1970’s. I never want to see that happen again, but by ignoring their budget needs, we’re repeating the same mistakes that caused those riots.”

For more information contact:
Senator Wilson's Office: (405) 521-5574

Inon: Horizontal Blue Band

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