The Norman Transcript

Opinion

January 14, 2014

Beds needed

NORMAN — At the end of December, more than a fourth of the state’s inmate population was being held in private prisons. The state Corrections Department didn’t have room for the 5,824 prisoners.

Additionally, more than 1,000 inmates were being held in half-way houses and more than 500 were backed up in county jails that are paid a per diem to hold the prisoners after their formal sentencing begins.

As they do each year, Corrections Department officials are projecting to have to house and feed more inmates in 2014 than they did in 2013. An administrator told the Corrections Board that they anticipate needing another 450 to 500 beds by July of this year and another 750 to 800 by July 2015.

To do that, they are looking at buying or leasing space in one of two private prisons that opened in the state and then closed. Prison beds would be available in Hinton and Watonga.

Corrections board members will seek additional appropriations and a commitment from the legislature to address sentencing issues. It’ll be tight on both accounts as lawmakers don’t want to appear soft on crime in an election year.

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