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857 correctional officers needed, director of prisons Robert Patton tells state Senate committee

Mar 5, 2015 | by Lynn Powell

It would take 857 additional correctional officers to fully staff state prisons, a Senate panel was told Wednesday.

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee peppered Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton with budget questions as lawmakers try to figure out how to fill budget holes. The state is expected to have about $611 million less to spend in crafting the fiscal year 2016 budget than it did with the current budget. Agencies have been told to brace for budget cuts. “We are starting the process of looking at the big 12 agencies,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Clark Jolley, R-Edmond. “The top 12 appropriated agencies comprise 93 percent of the state budget.”

By BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau | Posted: Thursday, March 5, 2015 12:00 am

2015-03-05 ne-doc

PRISON PROBLEMRobert Patton: The DOC director, saying the prison system is staffed at only 67 percent, described the shortage as a security concern. Adding 857 officers would cost nearly $3.7 million.

OKLAHOMA CITY – It would take 857 additional correctional officers to fully staff state prisons, a Senate panel was told Wednesday.

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee peppered Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton with budget questions as lawmakers try to figure out how to fill budget holes.

The state is expected to have about $611 million less to spend in crafting the fiscal year 2016 budget than it did with the current budget. Agencies have been told to brace for budget cuts.

“We are starting the process of looking at the big 12 agencies,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Clark Jolley, R-Edmond. “The top 12 appropriated agencies comprise 93 percent of the state budget.”

The DOC budget request was prepared before the $611 million figure was released.

The agency is currently staffed at 67 percent, said Patton, who became head of the DOC about a year ago. He said staffing is a security concern.

DOC officials say the agency has 1,541 correctional officers. Increasing correctional officer staffing by 857 would cost an additional nearly $3.7 million, according to the agency.

Meanwhile, state prisons are operating at 116 percent of capacity, Patton said. The agency expects an additional 1,140 in offender growth by the end of June, he said.

Despite the low staffing and rising number of offenders, Patton said he does not believe federal oversight of the state’s prison system is imminent.

Patton said offenders are serving longer sentences than in years past. The number of offenders convicted of a crime requiring them to serve 85 percent of their sentence has risen to 8,013, up from 4,200 in 2007, according to DOC data.

In addition, the prison system is seeing more receptions than releases, Patton said.

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