NORMAN — Prison guards in Oklahoma start at less than $13 per hour. About 30 percent of them qualify for food stamps and 85 percent of them qualify for federal school lunch programs.
So when the state’s economy recovers, better-paying and less stressful jobs tend to lure guards away. That’s happening statewide and legislators are looking for ways to stop the exodus.
State Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, requested an interim study on staff wages and employment levels at state prisons. It’s a matter of public safety as low staffing levels puts guards and the public at risk.
The Corrections Department gets $463.7 million of the state’s $6.8 billion budget. Workers are seeking a 5 percent pay raise. State employees haven’t had an across-the-board increase in wages since 2006.