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May 3, 2014

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Fallin padding corporate prisons bottom line

Frank Smith

Bluff City, Kan.

To the editor:

While the “County Jails best option for the DOC” to deal with inmate housing problems is right on numerous points, it misses some of the most salient ones.

They do give counties relief through some economy of scale. They keep prisoners close enough to get visits and sometimes accessible to local service providers, church, synagogue or mosque officials, etc. But the bottom line is the bottom line: Mary Fallin is essentially a stooge for the for-profit prison industry. No matter how bad a job they do, she’ll be trying to pad profits for their far-flung, millionaire executives and campaign contributors. Her DOC head was brought to Oklahoma to pander to those out-of-state corporations and never should have been hired anywhere.

Two corporations are trying to reopen long vacant prisons. Hinton, owned by GEO Group for the last five years or so, and known for its escape by homicidal kidnappers, has long been a problem since air headed booster council members were convinced by hustlers to borrow to build decades ago.

Riot-plagued Watonga, owned by the Corrections Corporation of America is even worse.

Both have impeded better paying, safer businesses from locating in those communities.

They, and other for-profits, such as CCA’s pens in Cushing and Sayre, have burdened the state with substantial externalized costs, such as more riots, the latter thanks to out-of-state prisoners who never should have been imported from thousands of miles away to Oklahoma.

Years ago both the state and those Music Men convinced counties to overbuild facilities.

Grady County is perhaps the most unfortunate example. Tulsa may be the most harshly affected, and the situation was worsened by the state’s arrangements with Avalon and CCA.

Releasing state prisoners to make room for new ones is not actually a bad idea. Oklahoma leads the world in incarceration of female offenders, hardly anything to brag about.

It is one of the top per-capita incarcerating governments regarding male prisoners as well.

The longer prisoners serve, the more estranged they become from their families, support systems and potential employers.

Finally, what needs to be revisited is an actualized Justice Reinvestment Program. It’s not that hard to figure out.

Until the corporate “bottom line” gets in the way.


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