Scott Crow

Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Jonna Wolf is worried there are a lot more than the two COVID-19 cases being reported in Oklahoma’s population of nearly 24,000 prisoners.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Prisons across the United States are struggling with a rash of COVID-19 infections. In Oklahoma, two prisoners and nine corrections employees have tested positive for the disease.

StateImpact’s Quinton Chandler spoke with Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow about the state’s ability to test for COVID-19 in prisons.

The coronavirus pandemic is hurting state revenues and public safety agencies in Oklahoma are preparing for a potential 3 percent cut to their budgets in the next fiscal year.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections could lose more than $16 million dollars. To adjust, the agency is considering moving prisoners out of private prisons into temporary holding areas in state prisons.

Corrections director Scott Crow told legislators this week they would also still have around $4 million meant to pay for prisoner Hepatitis C treatment.

Oklahoma state prisons began releasing 111 prisoners Thursday by order of Governor Kevin Stitt.

Prompted by a legislative committee question, Department of Corrections director Scott Crow said the releases aren’t related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Although this is at a time when we’re looking at early releases and trying to manage our population to accommodate this crisis their releases are not directly related to COVID," Crow said.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The last executions in Oklahoma were embarrassing failures.

Before he died, Clayton Lockett writhed and moaned on his gurney. Charles Warner said his body was “on fire.” Richard Glossip’s execution had to be called off at the last minute.