The Oklahoma Board of Corrections on Wednesday unanimously approved two contracts that will keep the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre and Davis Correctional Facility in Holdenville open through July 2023.
CoreCivic, a Tennessee-based private corrections company, owns both of the prisons. The facilities combined house just under 4,200 prisoners or nearly 20% of Oklahoma’s total prison population.
The Department of Corrections will pay CoreCivic at least $12 million annually to use the North Fork facility, which it has leased and staffed with state corrections officers since July 2016. The facility previously housed out-of-state prisoners from Wisconsin and California.
Starting July 1, the corrections department will pay CoreCivic between $50 and $63 per day per prisoner to house up to 1,314 medium and 360 maximum security prisoners at Davis. The agency won’t have to pay for unused beds, according to the updated contract agreement, and Davis prisoners won’t be charged more than their counterparts at state facilities to make phone calls.
The agency has the option to terminate the Davis contract without penalty if it gives CoreCivic at least 180 days notice. The state could also work with CoreCivic to purchase Davis, the contract agreement notes.
The board’s decision comes nearly a year after state corrections officials decided to vacate the Cimarron Correctional Facility, a private prison in Cushing owned and operated by CoreCivic. The agency cited a $24 million budget shortfall as motivation for moving state prisoners out the facility. The U.S. Marshall Services is now using the facility as a transfer center for federal inmates.
Here are five other takeaways from Wednesday’s Board of Corrections meeting:
- The agency’s mask mandate for staff, prisoners and volunteers could be lifted as soon as June 1, director Scott Crow told board members. Prison medical staff have distributed COVID-19 vaccine doses to just over half of prisoners and about a quarter of corrections staff. The staff total doesn’t include employees who were vaccinated off-site.
- Tablets will soon be given to prisoners at the North Fork Correctional Facility, Crow said. Oklahoma Watch first reported on the introduction of prison tablets in Oklahoma and costs associated with using them in February. The tablets will be distributed statewide if the North Fork rollout is successful.
- The proposed state budget for Fiscal Year 2022 would boost corrections department revenue by about 2.5% compared to F.Y. 2021, chief financial officer Ashlee Clemens said. The budget proposal, backed by Gov. Kevin Stitt and House and Senate leadership, is currently working its way through the legislature.
- Oklahoma’s prison population is down about 9% over the past year but could creep up as county court systems work through a backlog of criminal cases delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, board member Calvin Prince said. As of Monday, 85% of the state’s prison beds were full.
- About 2,000 state prisoners need treatment for Hepatitis C, physician assistant Bethany Wagener told board members. The viral liver infection is often spread through sharing needles or using unsterile tattoo equipment. Antiviral drugs against Hepatitis C are effective but can cost up to $1,000 per pill.
Keaton Ross is a Report for America corps member who covers prison conditions and criminal justice issues for Oklahoma Watch. Contact him at (405) 831-9753 or Kross@Oklahomawatch.org. Follow him on Twitter at @_KeatonRoss