In order to save money, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is removing state inmates from 10 county jails across the state. But the Sheriffs in those counties say it will be devastating to their departments. They were at the Capitol on Tuesday, talking to lawmakers about the dire circumstances they are facing without state prisoners and the money they bring in.
“Won’t have a jail, won’t have a department,” explained Tillman County Sheriff Bobby Whittington.
Whittington says they can house as many as 60 state prisoners at $32 a day. That pays for a large majority of his department's $1.3-million budget. Without it, they are facing foreclosure of the jail, that houses the 911 center, and will have to layoff 25 deputies, jailers and dispatchers.
“We’re looking at maybe three employees, counting myself, to run the department and patrol 800 square miles and handle the crimes and do what needs to be done,” said Whittington.
The other sheriffs say they are facing similar circumstances.
“I’m sorry they’re in this pickle. I’m sorry we’re all in this pickle,” said DOC Director Joe Allbaugh.
But Allbaugh says he needs to cut $3 million from his budget because of the recent revenue shortfall, and he can save $775,000 by moving county inmates into state facilities.
“I have to find budget savings somewhere and the county jails, unfortunately the county jail contracts amount to the largest amount of savings I have access to,” Allbaugh told News 9.
So sheriffs are now asking lawmakers to step in with a solution.
“It’s affecting the common person of Oklahoma. It’s causing us to lay people off, not to be able to provide safety, and protection,” Jefferson County Sheriff Jeremie Wilson said.
Earlier this year, DOC removed the 100 inmates from Wilson's jail. That’s led to the county jail being foreclosed on and he’s downsized his department to himself and two deputies.
“They need to turn to their local elected officials to solve the answers,” countered Allbaugh. “DOC didn't make any promises [that] if they built these jails we were going to show up.”