The Norman Transcript

Editorials

April 8, 2014

Taking care of business

NORMAN — The backlog of state prisoners filling county jails in Oklahoma is finally getting some attention. The Associated Press’ Sean Murphy reports the new director of the state Department of Corrections has made clearing the inmate backlog a priority.

That’s good news for detention centers like Cleveland County, which has dozens of sentenced inmates awaiting beds at state prisons. Statewide, about 1,700 prisoners are waiting for beds.

The county’s get paid a per diem rate to house the prisoners after they are sentenced, but most sheriffs say it’s not enough for the additional staff and wear and tear on jail facilities.

A prison spokesman said they hope to have all of the backlog reduced by May. New director Robert Patton is using halfway houses and work centers to free up space in county jails.

Oklahoma has about 26,000 men and women in the corrections system. Legislators continually add more crimes to the list of convictions where at least 85 percent of a sentence must be served before parole consideration.

An attempt to reform corrections by previous legislatures has fallen short as champions of the movement termed out of office.

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