Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

When Frank Taylor moved to Taft, Oklahoma from California six years ago, his friends asked how he could live in a town of about 300 people right next to two prisons. He laughed it off. 

“I got two big pit bulls,” Taylor said. 

Taylor says the small Oklahoma town is a place where he thought he could leave his doors unlocked. His home, near the center of town, is less than a mile from one of the prisons, Jess Dunn Correctional Center.

The minimum-security men’s prison has a problem.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections was a frequent topic for lawmakers during this year’s legislative session. The department was given an additional $8.75 million to balance its books for fiscal year 2018 and more than $517 million for fiscal year 2019 that began July 1. 

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Oklahoma has now overtaken Louisiana as the state with the highest incarceration rate in the country, according to data from the Prison Policy Initiative.

Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson speaks with John Carl, a professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Oklahoma, about how the rate got so high and what kind of overhaul is in motion.

Bill Broiles / Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Repair crews on Tuesday restored water service to Oklahoma State Reformatory in southwestern Oklahoma. 

Oklahoma Department of Corrections officials said a leak in a local water line drained the prison’s water tower Sunday night.

The leak drained multiple water towers near the town of Granite, including the prison’s. But, state prison officials say malfunctioning pumps at a nearby water treatment plant added to the problem. Without the pumps it was difficult to refill the empty water towers. 

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Canadian County Sheriff Chris West sits in a dimly lit office decorated with hunting trophies and law enforcement memorabilia. 

West is visibly frustrated when he says the Oklahoma Department of Corrections owes his county $88,691 for at least two years of jail costs — and he isn’t the only one complaining. The Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association says the state is shortchanging most counties for housing state prison inmates.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Baby Roman is just waking up from his afternoon nap and now he’s looking for a toy. His grandfather, Frank McCarrell, is trying to distract him from the house’s décor with a bottle of milk.

“He don’t usually be asleep this time,” said McCarrell, who just finished his workday to babysit for his daughter. “When I come home … usually he’s up and raring to go. Huh? You be running Papa around?

QUINTON CHANDLER/STATEIMPACT OKLAHOMA

Gov. Mary Fallin signed seven criminal justice reform bills this week ending a bumpy ride for legislation designed to curb prison population growth in Oklahoma.

Fallin says the measures represent smart ways to protect public safety, keep families together — and save taxpayer money.

Most of the legislation was introduced in 2017 but stalled in committee. This year, the bills were reconsidered after compromises between legislators, district attorneys and other government agencies.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma teacher walkout and educators’ demands for more school funding dominates the news. It’s unclear if lawmakers are willing to meet those demands and quell daily protests. One lingering question: If schools get more money, what happens to other state agencies and workers who need funding, too?

Oklahoma’s state Capitol has been a madhouse all week. Teachers pack the rotunda early, and by 9 a.m. the chants are loud enough to echo through the tunnels underneath the building.

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel and Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill about the State House and Senate agreeing to send the governor a $474M tax increase to fund pay raises for teachers, school support staff and state workers. Meanwhile, the Board of Corrections calls on lawmakers to provide $9M in supplemental funds just to pay bills over the next three months.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma wants to start executing prisoners again and officials want to use nitrogen gas. Oklahoma would be the first state to use nitrogen for an execution.

The state ordered a moratorium on executions in October 2015 after major problems with three lethal injections.

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