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Lawmakers grill DOC, public safety officials over decision to close northwest Oklahoma

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Lawmakers at the state Capitol grilled Oklahoma Department of Corrections and public safety officials over their decision to close the William S. Key prison in northwest Oklahoma. The decision to close the prison by the end of the year didn’t become public until it was leaked to the Woodward News.Public Safety Secretary Tricia Everest defended the decision, saying the state just doesn’t need the beds there anymore.”Only approximately 700 of the 1,100 beds were filled, and it’s a 19th-century facility in need of repairs with an annual cost upwards of $15 million,” Everest said.But she said the rollout was poorly executed. The leak to the Woodward News apparently prompted the DOC to throw together a news release that Everest said she didn’t see until it was public.”It is still not clear how, in this instance, this was leaked to the press before planning had been completed and we had notified everyone affected,” Everest said.State Sen. Casey Murdock posed the sharpest questions for prison officials, saying northwest Oklahoma is already hurting for jobs.”I don’t see this as an opportunity. I see this as a death sentence to a community,” said Murdock, R-Felt. “You can shut a prison down in Oklahoma City, there’s a new job there’s a new job down the street. Not in Woodward County. You are displacing families, not just workers. But the ripple effect in the economy up there is going to be dramatic.”Prison officials responded by saying this was a lengthy decision-making process.”It’s not like they just picked a loser and a winner. They were all otherwise equal. There are many factors that went into it,” said Jason Nelson, deputy secretary of public safety.”I disagree with you. I think the state has been picking winners and losers for a long time,” Murdock responded. “And I think northwest Oklahoma has been the loser.”

Lawmakers at the state Capitol grilled Oklahoma Department of Corrections and public safety officials over their decision to close the William S. Key prison in northwest Oklahoma.

The decision to close the prison by the end of the year didn’t become public until it was leaked to the Woodward News.

Public Safety Secretary Tricia Everest defended the decision, saying the state just doesn’t need the beds there anymore.

“Only approximately 700 of the 1,100 beds were filled, and it’s a 19th-century facility in need of repairs with an annual cost upwards of $15 million,” Everest said.

But she said the rollout was poorly executed. The leak to the Woodward News apparently prompted the DOC to throw together a news release that Everest said she didn’t see until it was public.

“It is still not clear how, in this instance, this was leaked to the press before planning had been completed and we had notified everyone affected,” Everest said.

State Sen. Casey Murdock posed the sharpest questions for prison officials, saying northwest Oklahoma is already hurting for jobs.

“I don’t see this as an opportunity. I see this as a death sentence to a community,” said Murdock, R-Felt. “You can shut a prison down in Oklahoma City, there’s a new job there’s a new job down the street. Not in Woodward County. You are displacing families, not just workers. But the ripple effect in the economy up there is going to be dramatic.”

Prison officials responded by saying this was a lengthy decision-making process.

“It’s not like they just picked a loser and a winner. They were all otherwise equal. There are many factors that went into it,” said Jason Nelson, deputy secretary of public safety.

“I disagree with you. I think the state has been picking winners and losers for a long time,” Murdock responded. “And I think northwest Oklahoma has been the loser.”



Read More: Lawmakers grill DOC, public safety officials over decision to close northwest Oklahoma

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