Audit shows problems plaguing prisons

Wednesday, July 9th 2008, 11:22 am
By: News 9

By Amy Lester, NEWS 9

McALESTER, Okla. - Leaking roofs, bad plumbing and antiquated electrical wiring - these are just a few of the problems plaguing Oklahoma's prisons.

The aging infrastructure of the state's correctional facilities is posing safety and security risks for inmates and workers, according to a recent independent audit conducted for the state legislature.

"We have a responsibility to provide them with a safe working place - safe working environment to come in whether it's a root that's not leaking or cameras to monitor a place," said Ricky Moham, deputy warden at Jackie Brannon Correctional Center.

The 1938 building was originally a hospital before being converted into a prison. Nine state correction facilities were not originally built as prisons, officials said.

Maximum security facilities like Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester also suffer from design flaws and aging buildings, Deputy Warden Linda Morgan said.

"It's a maximum security unit," she said. "You would want it in good repair. You would want it to be safe for the staff. You would want it to be safe for the inmates."

Justin Jones, director of the Department of Corrections, said it's hard to convince people to invest in prisons.

In addition to structural problems, Jones said the system does not have enough beds. Oklahoma prisons are currently 98.5 percent full.

"You're not like other agencies where you can say, we're not going to serve this many people, or we're going to reduce services in this area," he said. "We don't have that luxury."

The legislature increased the corrections' budget by $20 million for this fiscal year and Jones said he's confident the system can be repaired.

"If we all work together on this, I think we can make a difference and it will get better."