Okla. Lawmaker Calls For Department Of Corrections Investigation, DOC Responds

The call is spearheaded by Representative Justin "JJ" Humphrey (R-Lane), who says he has been receiving calls from inmates themselves, alleging assaults, disease outbreaks and more.

Wednesday, March 27th 2024, 5:28 pm



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Oklahoma lawmakers are renewing their call for an investigation into what they call ongoing issues at corrections facilities in the state.

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The call is spearheaded by Representative Justin "JJ" Humphrey (R-Lane), who says he has been receiving calls from inmates themselves, alleging assaults, disease outbreaks and more.

“Are they lying? Is the department of corrections lying?,” said Rep. Humphrey in a House committee Wednesday. “I'm getting reports and that's why we need an investigation because who is telling the truth?”

Rep. Humphrey called for Wednesday’s meeting to discuss a handful of reports he has received from inmates across the state.

But there was a lot of different information coming from the representative, and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

“Anytime that anything is brought up, we work as quickly as possible to address it. We are constantly trying to make sure people are serving their time in the best way possible,” said Kay Thompson, the spokesperson for the Department of Corrections. 

Kay Thompson says she’s in constant communication with Rep. Humphrey, who brought forward concerns about an alleged meningitis outbreak in a state prison.

“We had one confirmed case of meningitis and we immediately went into our communicable disease protocol,” said Thompson.

She says they had one other inmate present with possible symptoms, but they were able to stop the spread of the disease.

“They don't call it an epidemic, they say they're addressing it. The inmates say they are not getting cleaning supplies, they are not being fed, they are being housed in eight man cells and not being allowed showers,” said Rep. Humphrey.

Humphrey also pointed to low staffing numbers in the prison and an increase in violence. He says over the last two weeks, he has received dozens of calls alleging four inmate deaths and five inmate rapes. None of those have been confirmed. Thompson explains they track the data at prisons across the state and have not seen the kind of violence that Rep. Humphrey is alleging.

“Our violent numbers are actually on the decrease,” said Thompson.

Now Rep. Humphrey is renewing his call for an outside investigation into the Department of Corrections.

“It is time to take a serious look at what's fixing to happen because the next escalation is going to be something serious in the department of corrections. I am trying to call that out before it happens,” said Rep. Humphrey.

The state representative says he has turned over all reports of violence at state prisons to the Department of Corrections and the Attorney General’s office.

Thompson says the Department of Corrections has 21,000 people in their care, and they work hard to make sure they listen and investigate all of the inmates' concerns.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections issued the following statement:

"The Oklahoma Department of Corrections takes seriously the safety and security of our staff and inmates. During today’s Criminal Justice and Corrections committee meeting, Representative Justin Humphrey made multiple untrue claims. He began by saying an inmate at the Great Plains Correctional Center is currently hospitalized for injuries resulting from rape. This is entirely inaccurate. The agency has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) allegations. This is displayed through the swiftness with which our agents arrested the correctional officer seen having sex with a Mabel Bassett Correctional Center inmate in the video provided to us. 
"Rep. Humphrey stated he receives reports of rapes; however, he has not reported any of these incidents to ODOC’s Office of the Inspector General and has continued to make vague statements, which cannot be investigated. No outside law enforcement agency has contacted us about potential rape reports. 
"Rep. Humphrey’s commenting deaths within our facilities were preventable is pure speculation on his part. Our medical and mental health teams genuinely care about those incarcerated and work diligently to provide the best care possible. His report of an inmate screaming for hours in pain again is one of the many baseless statements made today. 
"There was no outbreak of meningitis at GPCC. There was only one case of meningitis, which unfortunately resulted in a fatality. Another inmate presented with symptoms but was medically cleared after extensive tests. We followed our protocols and the Oklahoma State Department of Health guidelines, which mitigated any spread. We reported this information from the beginning in the spirit of complete transparency. 
"ODOC has been open about the need for more security staff. The unit dedicated to recruiting new correctional officers is constantly working and has proven successful. Thirty cadets graduated earlier this month, and after receiving hundreds of applications, we are currently interviewing for the next academy. Our attrition rate is on the decline, which is a clear indication of the culture shift within ODOC. 
"ODOC constantly evaluates all operations, making decisions based on data and facts. We continue to work closely with all members of the Legislature, operating in transparency while protecting public safety."
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