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Okla. bill targets overcrowding caused by jails housing state prisoners

The DOC would be required to pick up inmates awaiting transport within three business days of sentencing


AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

By Mindy Ragan Wood
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN, Okla. — Legislation passed this week by the state House of Representatives could ease jail overcrowding in Cleveland County by requiring the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to pick up inmates awaiting transport within three business days of sentencing.

House Bill 2589 is authored by Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane. It awaits Senate consideration.

“These are men and women that have already been sentenced for crimes committed, and they are the responsibility of the Department of Corrections,” Humphrey said in a news release.

“This bill just allows county sheriffs or jail trust administrators to request an immediate transport of these individuals from the jail to prison should the need arise.”

Sheriff Chris Amason, who oversees the detention center, said the measure would alleviate overcrowding.

“Sheriffs in Oklahoma need to be able to manage the inmate population within their facilities,” Amason said in a statement provided by the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office.

“We should not be forced to house prisoners that are no longer our responsibility. It further strains our budgets when we are made to accept a lower daily rate of incarceration to house these DOC prisoners.”

The detention center houses nearly 500 inmates, including nearly 60 state inmates and nearly 80 federal inmates, Amason told The Transcript on Feb 20.

While the federal government pays the county between $55 and $60 per day to house inmates, the corrections department pays $25 per day, well below the average daily rate of $62 per day per inmate.

“It’s a much lower rate than our average daily rate,” Amason said on Feb. 20. “So, it’s actually better for them, cheaper to keep them there as long as they can. I understand that, but it causes a burden because I’m getting paid less than the actual cost.”

Humphrey, the bill’s author, said the corrections department intends to comply if it becomes law.

“We discussed that on the (house) floor,” he said. “It’s not like ODOC is opposing this.”

If the corrections department doesn’t follow the law, the bill could be amended later to create a cost penalty, he said.

Humphrey, who is chairman of the House Corrections Committee, said he does not expect many jails to enforce the three-day rule.

“Most jails aren’t going to push that,” he said. “Most jails are very happy to leave the inmates there to get the daily pay that they receive for that.

“Where this kicks in, is if you have an inmate that has a lot of medical health issues, let’s say you have inmate who’s being destructive in the jail and costing the jail a lot of money, or you have an overcrowding issue like they do in Norman.”


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