Expensive problems prompt $1 billion budget request from prisons agency

  • Quinton Chandler

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is asking lawmakers for $1.57 billion in funding for next year, a budget request anchored by money for new prison beds and medicine for hepatitis C.

The agency’s supervisory board on Oct. 30 unanimously approved the budget request for lawmakers to consider during the 2019 legislative session.

Prison population growth is driving the most expensive item on the agency’s list: $884 million in accommodations for about 5,000 inmates. The additional space for new inmates and those in temporary beds or housed at county jails would require the construction of a new medium-security prison. 

The second most expensive item: $91,665,821 to treat 3,107 inmates suspected of having hepatitis C.

Agency officials also requested funding for:

  • $31,913,879 for building maintenance 
  • $18,489,805 for staff raises
  • $8,865,211 for technology and security upgrades
  • $7,187,361 for debt payments

This is the third year in a row the agency asked lawmakers for more than $1 billion in funding.

The Legislature allowed the agency to borrow money for some building needs this year, but in the last two years, lawmakers gave the corrections agency about a third of the funding its leaders asked for.

Corrections officials requested more than $1.5 billion during the 2018 legislative session and received about $517 million in appropriations. In 2017, the agency requested more than $1.6 billion and received about $485 million.