Oklahoma Prison Population Reaches New Record High

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC) Director Joe Allbaugh announced on April 25 that the state’s prison population has surpassed its previous record high. The state reached a total inmate population of 61,000 in December 2016, and has now topped 62,000. This new number puts state prisons at 109 percent over their total rated inmate capacity.

During the state Board of Correction’s April meeting, Director Allbaugh stated that it has taken the state just four months to add “an additional 1,000 people to be included in our numbers of incarcerated, supervised and county jail back up.”

The ODOC, according to a statement, is now managing 33,865 individuals under supervision, including those participating in GPS monitoring programs, community supervision and probation/parole; 26,380 individuals in prisons and halfway houses; and 1,755 individuals in county jail back up beds. Those in county jail back up situations have already received judgment or sentencing and are awaiting placement in an ODOC facility.

“Programs are the way to get us out of this pickle long-term,” Director Allbaugh said in a statement. “In the short-term, the only thing we can do is hope and pray the legislature will step up and give us the necessary money to acquire, rent, beg, or borrow more additional beds to handle the influx.”

In its statement, the ODOC noted projections made by the Crime and Justice Institute and Pew Charitable Trusts that, should Oklahoma take no action to reduce its population, the inmate population could rise by an additional 25 percent over the next ten years. The organizations estimate that the state will require three new prisons to accommodate this projected rise — at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $1.2 billion in capital needs and a further $700 million in operating costs.

The state is also struggling to maintain its parole and probation load. The ODOC statement noted that the state employs just 261 probation officers, each with an average caseload of 130. Director Allbaugh has also made correctional officer hiring a priority, as the state currently maintains a correctional officer workforce of just 1,803 across all facilities.