In today's Oklahoman, Rep. Justin Humphrey writes about his effort to get a $2 per hour raise for prison guards. He makes a case for treating these state employees better. The bottom line for the state, and taxpayers, is that unless these problems are addressed, at some point there will be a successful lawsuit and a federal takeover of Oklahoma prisons.
The Department of Corrections has a shortage in staff of between 45 percent to 50 percent, and the problem seems to be becoming worse. As a result of the reduced staff, officers are being forced to work longer hours and mandatory overtime. The stress of the job, long hours, and the physical and emotional damage created by these conditions has resulted in two officers and one family member recently taking their own lives. In addition, most of our state prisons are located in remote areas and require long drive times. Late hours resulted in vehicle accidents within the past 24 months ending in three officer fatalities and other vehicle occupants losing their lives.
Of course, the best solution is for Oklahoma to put fewer people in prison, so long as we can accomplish that while keeping crime rates low. Other states have done as much. But those changes take time.