Oklahoma City--The Oklahoma Department of Corrections commemorates its 50th Anniversary Monday, May 8 with a special ceremony in the Senate chambers at the Oklahoma State Capitol beginning at 1 p.m.
The ODOC was established in 1967, and is responsible for the administration of the state prison system.
“Much has changed in our society over the course of 50 years,” said ODOC Director Joe Allbaugh. “But one thing remains constant, and that is the hard work of our employees who put their lives on the line every day protecting the citizens of Oklahoma. On behalf of the DOC, I also want to recognize the 20 individuals who lost their lives over the past 50 years in the line of duty. Their ultimate sacrifice helped make our state a safer place.”
The job of the DOC employee has become increasingly difficult as Oklahoma faces an $878 million dollar shortfall. Budget cuts to state agencies have resulted in often-drastic reductions in force and operating revenue, meaning less employees on staff to handle an increasing workload. Cuts to the ODOC are nearly $3 million.
“It’s a tough decision on where to make cuts,” Allbaugh said. “We are already significantly under-staffed while our prisons remain over-crowded. That is not a good situation for our employees. Oklahoma’s prison system is currently operating at 109 percent capacity, and is expected to continue growing.”
The agency put in place a hiring freeze for all positions, excluding correctional officers, probation and parole officers, food services and medical staff. A second cost-saving measure involved canceling contracts with 10 county jails, which will result in savings of $775,000 through the end of SFY 17. Another cost-saving measure was a purchasing freeze that delays many maintenance projects and repairs.
“Our state’s prison population continues to grow even as our budget continues to shrink,” Allbaugh said. “Some of our workers have not had a salary increase in over a decade. While the state’s budget is tight, we simply cannot continue as an agency operating on a shoestring and expect to maintain the safety of our employees as well as the citizens of Oklahoma.
“As we look back at 1967, I want to say ‘thank you’ to each and every DOC employee for their continued dedication, as well as their commitment to the state and to public safety,” Allbaugh added. “Without them, we could not do the job we are charged with. I know it is tough, but I know our employees are brave, strong and most of all resilient. That is what the last 50 years has demonstrated.”
The 20 DOC individuals killed in the line of duty are Albert J. Cox; Charles D. Powell; D.C. “Pat” Oates; Eugene L. Young; Charles Francis “Frank” Christian; Fred C. Godfrey; Gay Carter; Herman H. Drover; James Payton “Pate” Jones; Jeffery Matthew McCoy; Jess Fulton Dunn; Joe Allen Gamble, Jr.; Kenneth Denton; Raymond L. Chandler; Rex J. Thompson; W.H. “Pat” Riley; W.H. Aston; William C. Turner; William R. Benningfield and William Mayfield.