Private OK Prison Losing California Inmates, 400 Jobs Might be Affected

  • Joe Wertz

All of the inmates currently at the North Fork Correctional facility in Sayre, Okla. will be gone by the end of next year. Why? Because California’s prison overcrowding problem isn’t as bad as it used to be.

Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the private facility, told Elk City’s KECO radio it’s too early to tell whether any of the 400 workers employed at the prison will be affected.

California Department of Corrections spokeswoman Dana Simas says the move has nothing to do with the October 2011 riot, which sent at least 46 offenders to area hospitals.

California moved 2,000 inmates to the North Fork prison to ease overcrowding, which became so bad by the end of the last decade that a federal court intervened and ordered a reduction in the state’s prison population.

Housing California inmates in Oklahoma was never meant to be a permanent solution, Simas tells StateImpact.

Basically, California doesn’t need North Fork anymore. By placing nonviolent offenders in county jails, California has freed up about 20,000 beds at state prisons and no longer needs Oklahoma to house its inmate overflow.

“We now have the room to bring them home,” Simas says.

What this all means for the City of Sayre — population 4,000 — is unclear.

CCA is Sayre’s largest employer. Through utility and impact fees, the prison pumps more than $1 million into the local economy each year, says City Manager Guy Hylton.

Calls and emails to CCA seeking comment were not immediately returned.