Oklahoma Corrections Officers Concerned About Possible Cut In Hours

Monday, July 14th 2014, 6:16 pm

Oklahoma Corrections Officers said a proposal to reduce shift lengths from 12 to 8 hours will put them and the community in more danger.

Corrections officers have said for a long time, the 12-hour shifts are too much. However, the concern is without the DOC hiring more officers, this would further reduce the number of officers on each shift.

Early this year, DOC caseworker Darla Cowan was attacked, inside Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington.

"[He] grabbed me around the throat, knocked me to the ground," Cowan said. "I don't know why I'm here today. I just thank the Lord that I am."

There was only one guard on duty in Cowan’s area and he was too far away to offer protection. According to the Oklahoma Corrections Professionals, it was a result of severe understaffing.

“When you just look at officers to inmates, we have the fewest of any state in the country,” said Sean Wallace, the Director of OCP.

According to Wallace, cutting the 12-hour shifts would reduce that even more.

“We went to 12-hour shifts because of the lack of staffing,” said Wallace. “That hasn’t changed but now we want to go back.”

A Department of Corrections spokesperson said new DOC Director Mike Patterson, has said he doesn't like the 12-hour shifts because it's not good for the officers, and they also have to keep an eye on overtime. But in a letter to the director, Wallace pointed a number of recent disturbances at Oklahoma prisons and voiced concerns over further reducing staffing.

“My guys who have worked there for 15, 20 years say this is crazy,” he said.

The DOC said they are just studying the idea, but corrections officers were told it will take effect on August 1st.