Change Awaits Southeast Oklahoma Private Prisons Amid Concerns

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Advocates for both prison staff and inmates emphasize that more work is necessary to enhance conditions.

Change Awaits Southeast Oklahoma Private Prisons
Change Awaits Southeast Oklahoma Private Prisons ( Photo: KFOR )

In a significant shift, Oklahoma private prisons are undergoing a transformation as the state intervenes to address persistent issues of violence and understaffing

The takeover of the Davis Correctional Facility in Holdenville, a medium-to-maximum security prison owned and operated by CoreCivic, a Tennessee-based private corrections company, will be effective from October 1st, according to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

Previously, CoreCivic was receiving $55 per day for medium-security prisoners and $68 per day for maximum-security and behavior-modification units. Under the state’s control, the corrections officers, medical personnel, and other Davis staff will maintain their salaries and gain access to state benefits.

The move follows a surge in assaults within Davis, housing high-risk offenders, including gang-affiliated and violent offenders. In July 2022, a Davis inmate fatally stabbed a corrections officer, leading to concerns about the Oklahoma private prisons’ safety. While some speculate the takeover is a response to the spike in violence, the corrections department asserts its commitment to efficiently and effectively caring for the incarcerated population.

Oklahoma has historically relied on Oklahoma private prisons to alleviate overcrowding, but criminal justice reform advocates have pushed for severing ties with private corrections companies, citing concerns about conditions and profit motives

With a changing landscape driven by criminal justice reforms and shifting priorities, the state aims to usher in a new era for its southeast Oklahoma private prisons system, emphasizing professionalism and respect for inmates. The transition is not without challenges, as it could exacerbate staffing issues in a struggling prison system. Additionally, concerns have been raised about the potential difficulties in evaluating prison operations and ensuring a seamless transition. Nonetheless, proponents of justice reform see this as a positive step away from the privatization of prisons and hope it will benefit inmates and their families through lower rates for commissary items and phone calls.

The Department of Corrections is also contemplating a similar takeover of the Lawton Correctional Facility, highlighting the state’s commitment to reshaping its correctional landscape and prioritizing inmate welfare. Oklahoma‘s criminal justice reforms have played a pivotal role in reducing reliance on Oklahoma private prisons, signaling a shift towards a more humane and effective approach to incarceration.

 

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