In an effort to improve safety behind bars for inmates and correctional employees, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is working on plans to revamp the antiquated security technology in all of its correctional facilities, Oklahoma Voice reports. Spokesperson Kay Thompson said the planned changes will include new perimeter fencing, security cameras and other components that will improve the entire system. As it builds a new security plan, the agency is looking at best practices adopted in other states while focusing on increasing staffing. The expected cost is unknown. Needs at facilities will vary based on the layout and overall prison security level, but officials expect they’ll likely ask lawmakers for additional appropriations once plans and costs are finalized. Thompson said it will take at least three years to make all the necessary security improvements. The agency is currently using its existing budget to replace aging equipment as it fails, but Thompson said the cost of the upgrades will exceed the current allocation.
Rep. Justin Humphrey, who chairs the House’s criminal justice committee, said he “1,000% supports” adding new security equipment, but wants DOC to find efficiencies in its existing funding. He said modernizing the technology would allow correctional employees to monitor an entire prison, control gate access remotely and screen inmates and visitors more efficiently. Humphrey wants DOC to invest in technology that disables cell phone usage in prisons and allows the agency to locate cell phones being used in the prison recreation yard. Humphrey said every prison should also have the capability to conduct X-ray screenings of all belongings being brought in. Bobby Cleveland, director of Oklahoma Corrections Professionals, said he’d welcome technology upgrades. He attributes the violence behind bars to a lack of security cameras and issues with understaffing and contraband being smuggled into prisons. “I feel like that they have an obligation to keep the inmates safe as well as the other employees safe, and they have failed on that,” he said.