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Oklahoma Department of Corrections

‘We Are Still Human Beings’ Oklahoma Prisoners, Officials Adjust As COVID-19 Spreads

Sep 24, 2020
A woman waves from a prison window at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in 2019.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

In the early days of the pandemic, Geneva Phillips was ordered to stay in her bunk nearly all day for almost a month. She remembers being sore and miserable.

NIAID Coronavirus Prevention Network/National Institute of Health

Like much of the rest of the nation, Oklahoma is still trying to manage the spread of coronavirus. While deaths remain relatively low, White House metrics show the Oklahoma trend line is among the most troubling in the nation. KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol's Shawn Ashley discuss the latest numbers and how COVID-19 is affecting the state's prison population.

Researcher: COVID-19 Infection Rates 5 Times Higher In U.S. Prisons

Jul 23, 2020

Five hundred and ten people incarcerated in state and federal prisons have died from COVID-19 according to prison data collected between March 31 and June 6 of this year.

Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein believes it's unlikely there have only been two Oklahoma prisoners infected with COVID-19.
Courtesy Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein

Jonna Wolf is worried there are a lot more than the two COVID-19 cases being reported in Oklahoma’s population of nearly 24,000 prisoners.

Her fiancé, Griffin Davison, is finishing up a five-year prison term for convictions stemming from possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. He has less than a year left.

Scott Crow is head of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Prisons across the United States are struggling with a rash of COVID-19 infections. In Oklahoma, two prisoners and nine corrections employees have tested positive for the disease.

StateImpact’s Quinton Chandler spoke with Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow about the state’s ability to test for COVID-19 in prisons.

Prisons in multiple states are finding more positive cases of Covid-19 as they ramp up testing.

Gov. Kevin Stitt, Attorney General Mike Hunter and Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow say new rules will prevent mistakes during future executions.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

There’s a possibility state supplies of sedatives, paralytics and other drugs could be useful in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gary Leonhardt is a Democratic voter living in Norman.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

In 2016, Oklahoma voters passed two state questions intended to reduce the state’s prison population. Every year since, lawmakers have introduced bills designed to help decrease the number of people serving time.

Jess Dunn Correctional Center in Taft, Oklahoma.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Two state lawmakers filed a bipartisan bill Thursday to make State Question 780 retroactive.

Joe Allbaugh is director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is asking lawmakers for $1.57 billion in funding for next year, a budget request anchored by money for new prison beds and medicine for hepatitis C.

The agency’s supervisory board on Oct. 30 unanimously approved the budget request for lawmakers to consider during the 2019 legislative session.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh hopes prison reform doesn’t stop with the last round of Legislature’s last round of reform bills.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Every day, Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh sits at his desk and tries to make a severely overcrowded, understaffed prison system work.

Marijuana leaf
Wikimedia Commons

For Oklahoma inmates, the state’s legalization of medical marijuana will not translate into access in the state prison system.

Joe Allbaugh is director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections was a frequent topic for lawmakers during this year’s legislative session. The department was given an additional $8.75 million to balance its books for fiscal year 2018 and more than $517 million for fiscal year 2019 that began July 1. 

Oklahoma State Reformatory is a minimum security prison that houses over a thousand male inmates.
Bill Broiles / Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Repair crews on Tuesday restored water service to Oklahoma State Reformatory in southwestern Oklahoma. 

Oklahoma Department of Corrections officials said a leak in a local water line drained the prison’s water tower Sunday night.

The leak drained multiple water towers near the town of Granite, including the prison’s. But state prison officials say malfunctioning pumps at a nearby water treatment plant added to the problem. Without the pumps it was difficult to refill the empty water towers. 

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Canadian County Sheriff Chris West sits in a dimly lit office decorated with hunting trophies and law enforcement memorabilia. 

West is visibly frustrated when he says the Oklahoma Department of Corrections owes his county $88,691 for at least two years of jail costs — and he isn’t the only one complaining. The Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association says the state is shortchanging most counties for housing state prison inmates.

Every new male inmate in the Oklahoma prison system arrives through this gate at the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center in Cleveland County. Blood is drawn from inmates for testing and certain results can lead to further tests for hepatitis C.
Oklahoma Watch

Inmates in Oklahoma prisons must have advanced liver disease before becoming eligible for treatment of hepatitis C, a potentially deadly and growing disease.

The situation in prisons pits the enormous cost of treatment against the public health gains of curing one of the populations most at risk for the viral infection.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh
Sue Ogrocki / AP

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections wants out of the state’s unified information technology system. Corrections director Joe Allbaugh criticized how the Office of Management and Enterprise Services runs the IT system during an interim legislative hearing Monday.

Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh speaks to members on the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee on October 19, 2016
Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

Oklahoma’s Department of Corrections says one of its biggest challenges is recruiting and retaining employees.

During an interim study Wednesday, Prison Director Joe Allbaugh told lawmakers turnover for the agency is roughly 28 percent. Correctional officers in particular, Allbaugh said, are even harder to retain. Turnover for those positions is approaching 40 percent.

He blamed the high-stress nature of the job combined with low-pay and long hours and said many cadets have a false idea of what being a prison officer entails.  

Counselor Donte Chattman stands outside the cabins at New Day Camp on Lake Texoma
Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

Kristen Harlin speeds a golf cart through the grassy fields overlooking Lake Texoma in Kingston. It’s muggy and hot and the sun is relentless. Harlin is the executive director of New Day Camp, a summer camp for children with incarcerated parents.

“All the campers here have the same, common thing going on in their life (sic). So if you get that stigma gone right away, they don't feel like they're the different person in the cabin,” Harlin says.

Leaders address incarceration as soon as kids step off the bus. Then it’s onto normal camp activities.

Gregory Smith
Oklahoma Department of Corrections

An Oklahoma inmate died Wednesday night after a disturbance broke out at the Mack Alford Correctional Center in Stringtown.

In a press release describing the incident, Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh called the knife fight “senseless violence” and vowed to look for a motive.

“We have launched a full-scale investigation into the situation,” Allbaugh said. “We will ensure the proper measures are taken to better manage these situations in the future.”

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