Senate Leadership Considers Closing Prisons

Friday, April 3rd 2009, 11:17 pm
By: News 9

By Dave Jordan, NEWS 9

GRANITE, Oklahoma -- The state is considering closing three Oklahoma prisons which house thousands of inmates.

Senate Leadership is conducting a review of facilities in Granite, Helena and Stringtown, and there's a lot of controversy surrounding these preliminary plans.

Leaders who represent the communities where those prisons are say the areas will suffer financially if they're closed.

For months, there have been rumors about a potential shutdown of Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite, a medium security prison home to 1,000 inmates.

News 9 obtained an email from a DOC employee which references the possibly closing of three facilities.

The state reformer is in Senator Tom Ivestor's district.

"They've got a multi-million dollar payroll, hundreds of jobs," Senator Investor said. "It would be a devastating blow at a time when our economy is on the downturn."

Mack Alford Correctional Center in Stringtown and James Crabtree Correctional Center in Helena are also on the potential list. There are at least 800 inmates in both facilities.

"They're just getting to complete a facility for 200 more inmates," said James Simpson, commissioner for Alfalfa County. "They wouldn't be building it if they were going to close it."

Simpson has no idea legislators were looking into possibly closing Crabtree.

"What would they do with some of these 900 or 1,200 people in Helena?" Simpson said. "All the prisons are full now, from what I understand."

One belief is that the inmates will be sent to private prisons. Senator Ivestor doesn't have a problem with privatization, but doesn't believe it should come at the expense of his constituents.

"It's going to cost jobs in SW Oklahoma and I'm elected to defend those jobs," Senator Investor said. "I will do everything in my power to do that."