- Associated Press - Monday, March 28, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Officials say the Oklahoma Corrections Department has paid a record $92.7 million to a pair of out-of-state private prison companies to house Oklahoma inmates for one year.

The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/1RFMA3w ) reports that Oklahoma has spent about $975 million since 2004 on contracts with the two for-profit corrections enterprises, Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America and Florida-based GEO Group, Inc.

The agency says the record high expense this past year was necessary to deal with the state’s persistent overcrowding problem. The department’s Interim Director Joe Allbaugh says Oklahoma’s prison system is operating at 122-percent capacity.

“We simply cannot house any more inmates,” he said. “The private prisons are our only relief valve right now for our population.”

Allbaugh said he doesn’t see long-term scenario in which the state won’t rely on private prisons. Still, he says he doesn’t like the idea of using them.

“I don’t believe taxpayers should be paying a premium for our prisoners,” he said. “I would much rather have our facilities with our staff, because I think we can house inmates more efficiently.”

The Corrections Department currently houses nearly 6,000 inmates in two Corrections Corporation of America prisons in Cushing and Holdenville, as well as a GEO Group, Inc. prison in Lawton.

Oklahoma Corrections Department’s private prisons expenses has grown since the state began using the facilities in 1996. The two companies have received about $55 million so far this fiscal year, which ends June 30. The agency’s recent spending trends indicate that the number will continue to increase.

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Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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