Oklahoma corrections department selling bonds to expand
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Board of Corrections has started the process of selling more than $116 million in bonds to help add capacity to the state’s overcrowded prison system.
The board on Thursday authorized Oklahoma Corrections Department Director Joe Allbaugh to negotiate, finalize and execute documents on the agency’s behalf to issue the bonds, The Tulsa World reported . Lawmakers approved the bond funds last session.
The board also directed Allbaugh to begin gathering information about building new correctional facilities.
Officials haven’t yet determined if new prisons will be built or if existing prisons will be expanded, Allbaugh said. It’s also unclear if older facilities would be closed once additional beds are available, he said.
The state prison system is currently at more than 150 percent of capacity, Allbaugh said. The system is at 113 percent of capacity when taking into account the three private prisons in the state, he said. The agency spends $120 million a year on the private prisons, which house 5,800 people, he said.
“If the state doesn’t take a proactive attitude on this, the feds are going to come in and make it happen,” Allbaugh said.
Despite criminal justice reforms enacted last session, Oklahoma’s prison population is expected to increase by more than 2,300 inmates by 2026, according to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
“It is shameful what is going on,” Allbaugh said. “For some reason, I guess, everybody thinks we are supposed to have a magic wand in the closet somewhere and grow that tree that grows money. I haven’t figured it out yet.”
Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com