OKLAHOMA CITY — Sheriffs across Oklahoma said the state Department of Corrections’ decision to break contracts to house state inmates with 10 county jails creates hardships for their departments.
Sheriffs are responding to Corrections Department Director Joe Allbaugh’s announcement last week with emotions ranging from concern to near panic, The Oklahoman reported.
Cotton County officials say they’ve already laid off three employees due to its lost contract, which permitted the county to house 16 inmates at a cost of $32.50 a day. At the time the contract was canceled, the county had 12 state inmates, making the loss about $142,000 a year, according to Undersheriff Bobby Sparks.
The plan is an effort to save $775,000 this fiscal year as Oklahoma deals with a revenue shortfall projected to grow by $878 million next fiscal year.
Tillman County Sheriff Bobby Whittington said his office will have to lay off about 25 employees with the contract cancellation, which he says threatens his office’s existence.
“With them pulling the inmates, from today I can guarantee this department will stay open until April 30,” the sheriff said. “At that point, if we don’t make the jail payment for the building, the possibility exists we may be evicted, at which time the county 911 center has no home. We have no funds to transfer the 911 center location. We don’t even have office space for the sheriff’s department.”
Whittington said county tax revenues provide about $240,000 a year toward the jail’s operations, which cost a total of about $1.3 million annually.
Roger Mills County Sheriff Darren Atha and Craig County Sheriff Heath Winfrey said the move is a significant loss, but that they don’t expect their departments to have layoffs.