Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma teacher walkout and educators’ demands for more school funding dominates the news. It’s unclear if lawmakers are willing to meet those demands and quell daily protests. One lingering question: If schools get more money, what happens to other state agencies and workers who need funding, too?

Oklahoma’s state Capitol has been a madhouse all week. Teachers pack the rotunda early, and by 9 a.m. the chants are loud enough to echo through the tunnels underneath the building.

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel and Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill about the State House and Senate agreeing to send the governor a $474M tax increase to fund pay raises for teachers, school support staff and state workers. Meanwhile, the Board of Corrections calls on lawmakers to provide $9M in supplemental funds just to pay bills over the next three months.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma wants to start executing prisoners again and officials want to use nitrogen gas. Oklahoma would be the first state to use nitrogen for an execution.

The state ordered a moratorium on executions in October 2015 after major problems with three lethal injections.

Kate Carlton Greer / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections has stopped hiring for the rest of the budget year to prepare for potential funding cuts.

Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh decided to freeze hiring after the state Legislature voted down a series of tax increases known as the Step Up Oklahoma plan, Monday.

Rachel Hubbard / KOSU

Oklahoma is replacing the decks of playing cards they sell in the prison canteens with new custom decks featuring the faces of victims from 52 unsolved homicides and missing persons cases. Other states have similar programs and the program is working.

During the Iraq war, a surprisingly effective tool for the military was a deck of cards distributed to troops featuring the faces of Iraq’s most wanted. Now, law enforcement officials are hoping inmates in American prisons will help play a similar role in unsolved cases.

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel about lawmakers suspending the special session until a bargain can be made on how to fix the state budget, the Department of Corrections gets blow back from a state lawmaker as it works to reduce overcrowding in state prisons and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt spends $25,000 on a sound proof phone booth for his office.

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel about the dire situation at the Department of Corrections according to Director Joe Allbaugh, the state faces a lawsuit by car dealers over a tax increase on the sale of new motor vehicles as well as a suit by Republican candidate for Governor Gary Richardson over other issues in the budget passed last month by lawmakers.

Flickr / Wesley Fryer

A new ruling against the Federal Communications Commission is estimated to save the Oklahoma Department of Corrections $1.2 million dollars per year.

The case was decided Tuesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter challenged the FCC’s ability to mandate rates for inmate phone calls within the state.

Removing that mandate means Oklahoma prisons and jails will be able charge more per phone call to cover the costs of monitoring inmate phone calls.

Kate Carlton Greer / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

The director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections says the agency is imposing a hiring freeze to help cut costs as a result of a state revenue failure.

Director Joe Allbaugh said Thursday that the hiring freeze is the first of many possible changes in order to cut spending by about $3 million by the June 30 end of the state's fiscal year.

Allbaugh says there are 348 vacant positions that will go unfilled during the freeze. He says the freeze does not include correctional officers, probation and parole officers, medical professionals and food service workers.

Kate Carlton Greer / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

Oklahoma’s Department of Corrections says one of its biggest challenges is recruiting and retaining employees.

During an interim study Wednesday, Prison Director Joe Allbaugh told lawmakers turnover for the agency is roughly 28 percent. Correctional officers in particular, Allbaugh said, are even harder to retain. Turnover for those positions is approaching 40 percent.

He blamed the high-stress nature of the job combined with low-pay and long hours and said many cadets have a false idea of what being a prison officer entails.  

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