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Oklahoma State Department of Correction ends contracts with county jails

[Source KSWO] [Source KSWO]

SOUTHWEST, OK (KSWO)- A big change for inmates across southwest Oklahoma following the State Department of Correction's decision to sever its contracts with county jails.


That means inmates will no longer be housed in county jails.


Comanche, Cotton, Jefferson and Tillman counties will all be affected.


While this will save the Department of Correction nearly 775-thousand dollars ---- it could be devastating for some of those counties.



Cotton County Jail was just one that received a call yesterday to have twelve inmates picked up from the facility today.

Sheriff, Kent Simpson, said currently they house sixteen inmates and the cutback will cost them nearly one hundred thousand dollars each year.

He said the change immediately put them in jeopardy of closing.

 

"We had three openings and we were looking,” said Simpson. “We advertised out to fill those three positions. As of this morning (March 9th) not only did we take those off the website and did not fill those positions but we also had to lay off three more hands."

Tillman County's Sheriff, Bobby Whittington, said he too is concerned about the future of his facility.

"It's going to shut us down,” said Whittington. “We are not going to be able to pay the jail payment."

Tillman County Jail cost nearly one and a half million dollars to operate each year.

Whittington said he is unsure of where they will get the funds to continue to remain open.

“Once you take into consideration the jail payments, the electricity, the salaries, the food,” said Whittington. “It's basically going to shut us down."

Simpson said hopefully he is to be able to house for other county jails in the surrounding areas, however, now he calls for help from the community.

“Everyone needs to call their state representatives and the senators and the governor and explain to them that this is not right,” said Simpson. “They should be giving money to the local counties their people other than giving it to private prisons."

"It's just frustrating to see year after year more of state responsibility being put on the counties and it's got to stop," said Whittington.

 

Per Oklahoma's Department of Correction website, they issued a hiring freeze last week to begin closing the budget gap.


That action is the first of potentially many changes agency officials plan to take.

Copyright 2017 KSWO. All rights reserved.

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