Oklahoma’s prisons are at 99 percent capacity. Three other private prisons in Holdenville, Cushing and Lawton house about 5,800 Oklahoma inmates, but the prisons are nearly at capacity as the Oklahoma Department of Corrections has steadily moved inmates to private facilities during the past several years.
Oklahoma Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Laverne, is conducting an interim study on the possible expansion of private prison use and will present those findings in October. Blackwell has said leasing open beds at Watonga or Hinton or both might be the only option for the state.
It’s not clear how or if reopening the prisons in Hinton and Watonga would affect the potential move of Oklahoma inmates to those facilities, said Jerry Massie, Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman.
Massie said the agency has been monitoring developments at both facilities, but it’s unknown how many beds may be filled by out-of-state inmates.
If outside contracts are signed and staff is hired for the prisons, “there’s less startup time” if Oklahoma decides to contract to also place inmates at the facilities, he said.
Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state.