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
  • N7 Sooners come together to serve Native American youth

    Whitney Wofford has faced some tough competition as a part of the Oklahoma tennis team. However, on Wednesday, Wofford may have taken on her biggest and most rewarding competition yet at the Sooners For N7 event at the Oklahoma football ...

    April 10, 2014 3 Photos

  • Earth Day activities continue this week

    Oklahoma is no stranger to extreme weather, but many say those extremes are even greater than before. Norman resident and biologist Kathy Rand is convinced those climate irregularities are a result of climate change caused by pollution, ...

    April 24, 2014

  • Moore schools receive $500K

    As Mickey Davis addressed the auditorium, the picture of a bright-eyed, happy 8-year-old on the podium in front of her could not be ignored. Davis’ son, Kyle Davis, was one of seven who lost their lives in the May 2013 tornadoes at Plaza ...

    April 24, 2014

  • Man arraigned after wife’s death

    A judge on Wednesday denied bond for a 37-year-old Norman man formally charged with stabbing his wife to death with a kitchen knife early Saturday morning in their southeast Norman apartment. Abid Sandhu, 37, was arraigned before Special ...

    April 24, 2014

  • Tornado Repair Oklahoma officials account for $9.4M in disaster spending

    OKLAHOMA CITY — Nearly a year after deadly tornadoes hit central Oklahoma, officials announced that they have spent close to $9.4 million in private donations on relief efforts....

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • School to present ‘Hamlet’

    To be or not to be? That is the question Norman North High School students are answering during their production of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” this week....

    April 24, 2014

  • Historic house celebrates centennial

    When Fredrick Holmberg arrived in Norman more than 100 years ago, he tucked his violin beneath his arm and headed for the University of Oklahoma campus.  A century later, another violinist, Cindy Zhang, will perform at the home Holmberg ...

    April 24, 2014

  • Dorman wants bipartisan appeal

    Rep. Joe Dorman said he’s proud to be a Democrat running for governor, but he hopes to garner bipartisan support. In a visit Wednesday to the Transcript, Dorman said, if elected, he wants to work across party lines like former Gove. Henry ...

    April 24, 2014

  • ‘Frozen’ to air Friday

    Movies on Main in Blanchard will host a showing of “Frozen” at 8 p.m. Friday. The evening will include hot dogs, chips, drinks, popcorn and free movie merchandise....

    April 24, 2014

  • Safety Town registration begins Saturday

    Saturday marks the beginning of registration for Safety Town classes at Sooner Mall. Safety Town, a 37-year Norman tradition, teaches children, ages 5 and 6, the importance of bicycle, fire and personal safety. Classes are 50 minutes long ...

    April 24, 2014

Video
Facebook