Staffing shortages, violence plague Oklahoma prisons

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Working as a prison guard in Oklahoma is becoming an ever more dangerous job as the state, with one of the highest incarceration rates in the United States, struggles with violence and understaffing at detention facilities.

The Davis Correctional Facility, a private prison in Holdenville, Oklahoma, operated by Tennessee-based CoreCivic, is shown on Sept. 20, 2022. The 1,700-bed men’s prison where a correctional officer was fatally stabbed this summer has struggled to hire and retain staff and was operating at about 70% of its contractually obligated staffing level, according to a 2021 audit of the facility. HOLDENVILLE, Okla.

“The victim immediately grabbed his side and quickly walked out of the A Unit South door toward a second correctional officer ... and collapsed,” Hunter wrote. “The defendant followed behind the victim and began shouting, “On the set” and “On the Crips,” prison slang indicating the action is the responsibility of the Crips prison gang of which the defendant is a validated member.”

“It was by far the worst,” said Scott, who now works at a state prison in Kansas. “There’s a reason I’m not there anymore.” Davio said the company used additional funding this year from the Oklahoma Legislature to increase pay for officers at the facility and also has advertised for openings and launched recruiting efforts at military bases and local colleges. A billboard along a highway near the prison, located 75 miles southeast of Oklahoma City, advertises starting pay at $22.10 per hour.


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