The Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, the state’s oldest prison, has seen its inmate population fall to less than half of what it was five years ago as officials move hundreds of the state’s most dangerous convicts to private prisons, reports the Tulsa World. The decline has been so steep that some state lawmakers, corrections guards, and others wonder if “Big Mac,” as it is called, will become home to only death row and the execution chamber, or if the prison will eventually be closed.
The last weekly count showed 574 inmates the facility, compared with close to 1,400 in 2008. The state says it plans to keep the penitentiary in operation “for years to come,” though “the goal is to reduce the facility offender population to approximately 600 offenders.” The state’s prison population keeps rising and is at 98 percent of capacity. County jails are overcrowded with inmates who are supposed to be transferred to the state prisons. Tulsa County has sued the state over the issue. Efforts at criminal justice reform haven’t cut the state’s incarceration, the nation’s fourth-highest.