Ada — Pontotoc County Sheriff John Christian and other local officials want some serious face time with their state legislators, not to mention new Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC) Director John Patton.
Christian and other sheriffs, undersheriffs, and county commissioners will converge on the state capitol Tuesday to protest ODOC plans to remove all ODOC prisoners from county facilities.
Some county jails, but not all, keep their facilities in the black with revenues from housing state prisoners.
For years, the state has dealt with prison overcrowding by paying a $27 per prisoner daily per diem to county facilities to hold, feed and manage prisoners ODOC didn’t have enough resources to accommodate.
The state, John Christian believes, is attempting to solve state problems by taking prisoners who have been farmed out to county facilities on a per-diem basis for years.
Those prisoners are to be housed in the state facility, with plans to also free up space there with early releases of non-violent and long-held inmates.
What irks law enforcement officers like Christian is that while the state stands to save money off the backs of the counties such as Pontotoc, the loss to the local facility will greatly cripple in-county budgets.
The costs, they believe, will ultimately be borne by the public through the inevitable crime increases that result from the early release of state prisoners.
Ray McNair, executive director of the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association, sent a statewide email to sheriffs Friday:
“Over a decade ago, DOC needed beds for their inmates and there was no hope to build any state prisons. They requested help from county sheriffs and commissioners, who responded by building bigger jails that were needed for county inmates to accommodate the excess prisoner-load in the state facilities.
“A law was passed allowing for a per diem for the inmates from DOC to be used to augment the jail operation.