Oklahoma correctional officers need help.

When a series of fights broke out last month at six state prisons, one inmate was killed, 36 were injured and several correctional officers were hurt.

Contraband is to blame. It is behind 100% of the violence that happens in the prison yard and remains the biggest security threat the prison system faces, said Matt Elliott, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

Prison gangs are often affiliated with trafficking and distributing illegal goods – including cellphones, drugs and weapons.

This has been a daily battle, not just on the inside of prison fences, but outside. People have been caught throwing bags over the fences, and those bags contain every kind of contraband you can think of.

Cellphone jamming won’t work because it’s illegal, so that’s going to be a little more difficult to deal with.

And, despite efforts to hire more correctional officers, prisons still operate short-staffed, which makes conditions more dangerous for employees and inmates.

DOC now has the ability to offer higher starting pay, and they have enrolled more than 100 people in their upcoming training academy.

But, Cleveland said the agency can do more to protect employees. That includes purchasing additional walkie-talkies so that all employees behind bars can call for assistance. Right now, he said doctors, nurses, secretaries and other support personnel don’t have access to them.

He also wants the agency to provide stab vests for all correctional officers.

“I don’t think you can put a dollar amount on someone’s life,” he said.

We agree.

More officers are needed. They’re working on solving that issue.

Providing walkie-talkies seems like a fairly inexpensive way to help support personnel to be safer.

And stab vests for employees is something DOC should be able to purchase. They are available at varying costs, but what cost do we put on employees’ lives?

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