Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) Director Joe M. Allbaugh instituted a purchasing freeze that took effect in March. The announcement is the third administrative action undertaken in less than three weeks to save the agency money.
The freeze excludes food, medical supplies, healthcare treatment and most safety equipment.
Exempt purchases will be considered if there is an immediate safety or security concern for a facility or the public.
Allbaugh said the agency is continuing to take proactive steps when trying to find the $2.964 million the agency was ordered to cut from its budget by the end of the fiscal year.
“As we continue to make difficult choices as an agency, we are exploring every avenue to fill this budget hole,” Allbaugh said. “We are running out of areas to cut from without jeopardizing the safety and security of the public and those within our facilities. With the purchasing freeze in place, we will keep safety at a premium while not balancing the budget on the backs of our employees.”
The total cost savings from the purchasing freeze are unknown at this time.
Allbaugh announced a hiring freeze for the majority of the agency recently. The freeze excludes correctional officers, probation and parole officer, medical professionals and food service workers.
There are currently 348 vacant positions that will go unfilled throughout the duration of the freeze.
Allbaugh said after consulting Corrections Board Chairman Michael Roach, they decided it is a proactive first step toward shoring up funds to ensure all bills and employees are paid.
Roach said the agency cannot afford to freeze the hiring of security staff because of the potential public safety risk.
“In our state prison facilities, we are around 30 percent understaffed for security officer positions,” Roach said. “On average, probation and parole officers are supervising 127 individuals per officer, with some caseloads being more. In the interest of public safety, we have to keep hiring these individuals.”
Allbaugh sent letters to 10 county jail administrators announcing the cancellation of their contracts with the agency. The move is expected to save the DOC an estimated $775,000 by the end of the fiscal year. The department has stopped filling the county jail beds and today began the process of moving the 224 inmates out of the county jails and into DOC facilities.
Counties included are: Choctaw, Comanche, Cotton, Craig, Jefferson, Le Flore, Nowata, Okmulgee, Roger Mills and Tillman.
The DOC had contracts with 12 county jails, which housed inmates at $32 per day. The two remaining county jails under contract are Greer and Marshall Counties. The two jails have 18 inmates combined. The two jails will no longer accept additional inmates.
All inmates being moved are medium and minimum security levels. They will be placed in a facility that has bed space.