Prison riot raises questions at Capitol

Tuesday, May 20th 2008, 7:08 pm
By: News 9

By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9

After the riot outbreak in the Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite and the deaths of two inmates Monday, state lawmakers are suggesting holding a special session to deal with the issues surrounding the incident.

"What is going on around here? I mean, is there any more greater wake-up call than what happened in Granite?" Rep. Richard Morrissette, (D-Oklahoma City), said.

Morrissette said it's frustrating that the legislature spent a million dollars on a Department of Corrections audit last year, only to have legislative leaders ignore most of the issues it addressed this year.

"One of those basic issues was the staffing levels at our prisons," Morrissette said.

He said one of the problems with the facility in Granite the riot highlighted, is that the facility is understaffed.

House Speaker Pro Tem Gus Blackwell said just because the riot happened, doesn't make the issue a crisis. Blackwell said recruiting and retaining officers will always be difficult in rural locations like Granite, but he said they are not ignoring the audit at all.

"Just as with roads and bridges, something that's been neglected for 20 years, you don't turn around in one year and solve the problem," Blackwell said.

Lawmakers are fully funding corrections next year, and Treasurer Scott Meacham said even if they could appropriate more money to DOC, that wouldn't necessarily solve the problems.

Though the financial issues are debatable, there was no argument about how well the officials at the Granite facility acted in response to the riot.