Summer heat, fewer officers and more inmates, and program and visitation cuts have Oklahoma Corrections Department workers at “a heightened degree of preparedness,” director Justin Jones told The Oklahoman. There are more inmates and fewer staff than ever in the state’s history. Add continued budget uncertainty and conditions arising from recent budget cuts and it’s a volatile combination for the prison system. “This is a crisis,” Jones said. “We have every ingredient for a very dangerous recipe. Our job is to make sure it doesn’t cook up.”
Prisoner advocates and corrections officers worry the tensions will result in violence. “It adds to the heat that was there already,” said Lynn Powell, president of Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants. Fights involving American Indian and Hispanic inmates broke out at three prisons in November 2009 after charges were filed against an American Indian. Inmates in those prisons had recently come off lockdown when officials last week announced plans to cut visitation opportunities in half. “Reductions of visiting hours will increase idle time, and that’s never a good thing,” said Amanda Ewing of Oklahoma Corrections Professionals, an organization representing about 2,000 state corrections workers.