OKLAHOMA CITY - The director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) has initiated a hiring freeze over concerns for this year’s budget following the failure of the Step Up OK budget plan.

According to a press release, the freeze affects all agency positions except correctional officers, food service workers and maintenance staff and those who already have employment offers issued.

“Nearly 90 percent of our budget falls into four categories,” said DOC Director Joe Allbaugh. “That does not leave much wiggle room, and we can’t just close the Department of Corrections to save money.”

The DOC, for the past two years, has requested more than $1 billion in budget increases from its current appropriated funding of $485 million, according to the release. The release goes on to state that, for 2019, the DOC has requested more than $800 million to build two new prisons to alleviate inmate over-population.

The DOC is the fifth largest state agency. According to the DOC, 27,178 people are currently incarcerated, and 958 are awaiting transfer from county jails. More than 34,000 are under community supervision, and state institutions are at 113-percent capacity.