Environment, Education, Energy: Policy to People


Department of Corrections

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Will Pay Raises Keep State Prison Guards Out of Oklahoma’s Oil Fields?


Oklahoma’s oil and gas boom has been hard on non-energy businesses, which are having a tough time competing for employees. “Help Wanted” signs are going unanswered in western Oklahoma, where gas station clerks, cashiers and even Dairy Queen workers are leaving their posts for more lucrative opportunities in the oil patch. It’s been especially tough on state prisons, which [...]

StateImpact Oklahoma on OETA: Private Prison, Public Policy

Logan Layden sat down with our partners over at OETA to discuss the North Fork private prison in Sayre with host Dick Pryor. North Fork provides hundreds of jobs for the small city, which also receives money from the prison’s owner, Corrections Corporation of America. North Fork houses only inmates from California, and officials there say they’re bringing [...]

Rural Oklahoma Town Faces Uncertainty As California Inmates Head Home


The North Fork Correctional Facility in Oklahoma is filled with more than 2,000 inmates, all from California. And that’s brought an economic boost to the small town of Sayre. But California is reducing its prison population and recently announced plans to bring its inmates back home. Local business owner Lori Herring moved to Sayre five [...]

The Public Costs of a Private Prison Riot in Oklahoma


When California ran out of space to house its growing inmate population, it turned to Corrections Corporation of America, which owns private prisons in 16 states, including Oklahoma. Now there are more than 2,000 Californians locked up at the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre. The arrangement wasn’t supposed to cost Oklahoma anything, but a [...]

Cuts in Inmate Education May Cost Oklahoma Taxpayers Later


About 8,000 people are released from Oklahoma prisons each year, and employment improves an offender’s odds of not returning, criminologists and corrections officials say. State prisons prepare inmates for the workforce through education and jobs skills training, which reduces recidivism and, ultimately, costs to taxpayers. But after years of state budget cuts, prison classrooms have [...]

Visualized: Oklahoma is a Leader in Locking People Up


Oklahoma is a national leader in putting people behind bars, and the state sits near the top of the list in every measure of state prisoners per capita. Explore incarceration in each state with our interactive maps.

Why Oklahoma Prisons are Understaffed and Always Hiring

Prison Guard

Oklahoma prisons are hiring. Being a guard is a full-time job — with benefits. And it’s a gig that comes with some measure of job security. So why do public and private prisons have such a hard time filling positions given the current economy? “It’s a rough life,” James Reed, deputy warden of the R.B. [...]

Comment from a Former Convict: ‘Give Me a Chance’

Inmate running a lathe

Oklahoma imprisons more people per-capita than almost every other state in the nation. We lead the pack when it comes to incarcerating women, and the state spends a lot of taxpayer money on prisons — more than state cops and courts combined. About 8,000 people leave state prisons every year, and a big part of [...]

Jobs for Felons: Why it Matters, Even if You’ve Never Been Locked Up

An inmate uses a lathe to machine a trailer part at the Skills Center inside McCleod Correctional Center near Atoka, Okla..

Confinement is only part of the mission at Oklahoma prisons. More than 25,000 people were incarcerated at state prisons last year, data from the Department of Corrections show. Most of those people will be released one day. Felons vow to never return. Officers and taxpayers — who are on the hook for $20,000 per inmate every [...]

Female Felons in Oklahoma Face Unique Employment Challenges


Oklahoma’s rate of female incarceration is about twice the national average. The state has held on to its number one spot in that category for most of the past two decades. It’s a distinction prison officials would rather not have, but isn’t easy to change. And there are unique challenges faced by women behind bars [...]

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