The Norman Transcript

Local news

July 29, 2013

Oklahoma State Penitentiary faces understaffing, aging facilities and uncertainty

NORMAN — Although the number of inmates at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary has dropped in recent years, the prison still faces some of the same problems afflicting other corrections institutions, state officials and prison officers say.

Those include a shortage of staff, low morale, high turnover, funding needs, aging facilities and uncertainty about the future.

Oklahoma Watch interviewed seven current or recently employed guards in addition to corrections officials and the director of the Oklahoma Corrections Professionals, asking about working conditions at the penitentiary. A number of the issues apply to other prisons as well, said Sean Wallace, who heads the corrections officers group.

“We’ve got crisis right now in staffing,” Wallace said. “I think everywhere right now there’s a real (safety) threat to officers and to the inmates.”

Jerry Massie, spokesman for the corrections department, said staffing needs, turnover and low pay for guards are system-wide issues.

Donnie Dycus, of McAlester, who served as an officer at the penitentiary from 2005 to 2011, said he saw morale at the penitentiary begin to sink lower mostly because of mandatory overtime practices.

Some employees volunteer for the overtime to bolster their paycheck, but often the overtime is required to fill in gaps in staffing, Dycus said. Massie confirmed that guards are required to work a certain amount of overtime. Dycus and other officers said they often must work a16-hour shift two days a week. Some employees have worked three or even four double shifts in a week, he said.

“Out there, you have no choice,” Dycus said.

Often, an officer will not know whether he or she is working a double shift until a few hours in advance. The required overtime has caused a number of safety issues, he said. Wallace and several officers said they know of guards who have had traffic accidents while driving home from work, exhausted. Dycus said officers have nodded off in control rooms during work hours.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local news
  • Injury accident reported

    Transcript Staff Emergency crews responded to an injury accident around 10:20 p.m. Sunday in the 1000 block of 80th Avenue Southeast where there were reports of someone pinned. Several reports indicated a vehicle struck a tree causing one ...

    July 28, 2014

  • Braddy_1. Norman North teen struck by freight train recovering with therapy

    A Norman North teen struck by a freight train in May is on the road to recovery and ready to get back to school after spending most of his summer in a hospital. Harrison Braddy, 16, has been staying busy with rehab and physical therapy ...

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Migrant kids go to Mass

    The services have all the elements of a typical Sunday Mass — singing, scripture, a sermon, prayers, communion and worship....

    July 27, 2014

  • Prisons expand reach to bring training to more officers

    McALESTER — Joshua Drake once was offered the chance to be a corrections officer but turned it down because he didn’t want to leave his wife and aging parents for six weeks to train hundreds of miles away in El Reno....

    July 27, 2014

  • Storm victims face loan dilemma

    The tornadoes, flooding and hail that struck Oklahoma last year left hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage, causing many home and business owners to seek help in the form of low-interest federal loans....

    July 27, 2014

  • SWIMMER Aquatic center could serve many community needs

    Michael Yoch could have been the kid with asthma sitting on the sidelines — could have been, but wasn’t. Michael had trouble running because of his asthma, which made it difficult to play soccer and many other sports his friends loved. ...

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Director leaves decade of memories

    Maureen Dolan is giving up the post as director of St. Joseph’s Early Childhood Development Center, fondly called “St. Joe’s” by the many parents whose pre-school children have spent their weekdays under her care over the past 10 years....

    July 27, 2014

  • Teen critical after rescue

    A 17-year-old Yukon male was transported to the hospital Sunday after a near drowning incident at Lake Thunderbird in the Party Cove area. Emergency crews responded to the lake after a report of a possible drowning around 5:30 p.m. ...

    July 27, 2014

  • County wreck fatal

    A Purcell man was killed in a single-vehicle wreck Saturday morning on Highway 77, north of Moffatt Road in Cleveland County. Keith Hedrick, 20, was pinned for about an hour and 45 minutes before the Slaughterville Fire Department was ...

    July 27, 2014

  • New library leaders

    The Pioneer Library System has familiar faces taking over leadership roles with its two hometown libraries....

    July 27, 2014