Oklahoma City – Today, Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) Director Joe M. Allbaugh announced a hiring freeze effective immediately for the majority of the agency.
The action is the first of potentially many changes agency officials plan to undertake in order to close the recently announced budget shortfall.
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. Total savings are unknown at this time but will be made available by the end of the fiscal year.
In a letter sent agency-wide earlier today, Allbaugh told employees the freeze comes in wake of the revenue failure announced by state officials at the Oklahoma Board of Equalization meeting on Tuesday. The DOC was ordered to cut $2.964 million from its budget before the end of the fiscal year.
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.
“This is a logical maneuver to allow us flexibility with the recent budget failure,” Allbaugh said. “Although the agency is already cut to the bone financially, we will continue to create more savings from what we have without furloughing any current employees.
“Even with today’s announcement, I know the dedicated employees at the department will respond with resiliency while stepping up to fill the gaps others have left. Together, we will continue to fulfill our core mission, which is to ensure public safety.”
Roach reiterated 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.”
Roach said the other exclusions are positions that are historically difficult to fill and are critical to ensuring the operations of the prisons.