- Associated Press - Thursday, November 5, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A closed state facility in Pauls Valley that was used for decades to house adults with severe developmental disabilities could potentially be converted to a prison and infirmary to house Oklahoma’s growing inmate population, the state’s prison director said Thursday.

Director Robert Patton told members of the Board of Corrections that he recently toured the now-closed Southern Oklahoma Resource Center and that talks are underway about acquiring the facility.

“This property, with its proximity and existing infrastructure, offers the department a rare and viable opportunity to expand our offender infirmary care and housing,” Patton said.

Patton said he submitted a formal request to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services to consider transferring the 590-acre property to the Department of Corrections. He said many of the property’s 29 structures are in good condition and that inmates could perform much of the necessary repairs and maintenance work.

The sprawling facility in central Oklahoma was closed earlier this year following a vote in 2012 by the now-defunct state Commission for Human Services to shutter it and a similar facility in Enid, and transition the developmentally disabled residents into community-based homes.

Also on Thursday, the board approved a $516 million budget request for the upcoming fiscal year that includes more than $31 million in new funding. The agency’s top priority is $17.4 million to pay for an estimated increase of about 900 new inmates next year, and $2.3 million for rising inmate health care costs.

The agency also is asking for $5 million to replace critical infrastructure at the William S. Key Correctional Center, a minimum-security facility at Fort Supply that houses more than 1,000 inmates, and $6.7 million for a 5 percent pay increase for the agency’s classified employees.

The board convened for about 40 minutes in a closed-door session to discuss pending litigation and the stabbing deaths of four inmates in September during a gang-related incident at the Cimarron Correctional Center in Cushing. No action was taken when the members returned from executive session.

Patton and members of the board declined to discuss publicly any details surrounding problems that have developed during recent executions in Oklahoma. An inmate was just hours away from his scheduled execution in September when prison officials realized they received the wrong drug, and an autopsy later revealed the same wrong drug, potassium acetate, was used during the state’s last scheduled lethal injection in January.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt has requested a halt to all executions in Oklahoma while he investigates what happened. Patton and Oklahoma State Penitentiary Warden Anita Trammell both have appeared before a multicounty grand jury looking into the problems, and Trammell has since announced her retirement.

Board Chairman Kevin Gross said Thursday that Patton has “the unwavering support of this board.”

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Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy .


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