Oklahoma’s prison director said that more state prisoners may be evicted from Oklahoma’s private prisons unless prison operators are paid more to house, feed, and care for them, reports the Associated Press. Director Justin Jones told members of the House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee he cannot sign contracts to house state prisoners in private prisons at ever-increasing market rates unless the legislature authorizes it.
In October, the operator of the Great Plains Correctional Facility in Hinton, Ok., gave the state 180 days to move about 800 state inmates housed there, forcing prison officials to find space for them in crowded state and private prisons and county jails. The state was paying about $45 a day to house each prisoner there, or $16,425 a year per prisoner, while other states, including California, were negotiating contracts for up to $60 a day. Five states – Arizona, Hawaii, Colorado, Wyoming and Vermont – have a total of 3,114 prisoners in private prisons in Oklahoma. Jones said the state is second in the nation behind Texas in the number of prisoners held in private prisons, a total of about 6,000 including Oklahoma prisoners. A total of 23.5 percent of the state’s prison system’s $456 million budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30 will be spent on contracted prisons beds, including private prisons, county jails and halfway houses. The state has 26,000 inmates; the prison population is estimated to grow at 2 percent a year for the next decade.