Officials study costs to close 3 Oklahoma prisons

Senate leaders have requested information about the costs of closing some older state prisons, but say there are no immediate plans to shutter the sites.

Last week, the state Department of Corrections sent Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, a report detailing costs of closing three medium-security prisons. The prisons studied were selected by the department.

The report examined the costs of closing Mack Alford Correctional Center in Stringtown, James Crabtree Correctional Center in Helena and the Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite.

In an April 1 letter written to Coffee, department Director Justin Jones said the prisons were studied because two were not designed to be prisons and one is the oldest facility.

Coffee said his request is part of an ongoing process to get information about facilities in the prison system and looking for efficiencies. An independent study of the bed space and facility conditions is expected to be turned over to legislative leaders by May.

“No decisions have been made and won’t be until we have the study completed,” Coffee said. “We’re simply collecting information.”

Coffee said it would be “virtually impossible” to close a prison by year’s end. Jones has also said that there are no current plans to close a prison.

Coffee said information on closure costs and prison conditions will go to the Senate Public Safety and Judiciary Committee.

“We’re still in the process of evaluating what we have inherited in our first session in the majority,” said committee chairman Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore. “I think it’s only prudent.”

Earlier this week, in a news release, Sykes was critical of Sen. Tom Ivester, D-Sayre, whose district includes the Oklahoma State Reformatory, for publicly expressing concern about plans to close some state prisons.


Seeking information

On March 17, Ivester and other Democrats who have prison facilities in their districts sent a letter to Coffee requesting any information about targeting prisons for closure. Ivester said he received no response to the letter. Coffee said he didn’t respond to the letter because he didn’t have the report.

Ivester said closing prisons in rural areas could be devastating.

“The evidence shows they (Department of Corrections) have been tasked to create a plan to close, but not been directed to close them,” Ivester said. “I’m concerned that just having a plan is a prelude to the possibility to closing them. I’d rather be wrong and look like a fool, than take no action.”



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