Senator Gilmer Capps, an Assistant Majority Leader in the Senate is calling on Republican Speaker Todd Hiett to bring members of the House of Representatives back to the Capitol for a special session to keep Oklahomans safe.
“The incident at the Oklahoma State Reformatory (OSR) in Granite this weekend, only serves as a harsh reminder that Oklahoma prisons are not safe,” Capps, (D-Snyder) said. “The Senate passed an emergency appropriation back in August to deal with this matter, and the Republican controlled House has chosen to allow the bill to sit on a shelf and collect dust while the problem only gets worse.”
Capps, a 35 year veteran in the Oklahoma Legislature, said staffing levels at the Reformatory during the most recent brawl that left four inmates injured and one in the hospital were dangerously low. The incident occurred on the Sunday evening shift on a unit where the correctional officer to inmate ratio was two to 160.
“During debate on the Senate floor, I said this crisis could not wait until next year,” Capps said. “My position hasn’t changed and at this point with the recent escape of a convicted murder and serial rapist in Lexington and now this second incident at Granite, I am baffled by Speaker Hiett’s ‘wait until next year’ attitude.”
Capps said if the House would have acted on the Senate Bill that passed during a special session in August there would have been more correctional officers on duty at OSR.
“Speaker Hiett and the Republican leadership in the House have sat around doing nothing to address this issue immediately,” Capps said. “The only consistency they have shown throughout this entire summer is consistently saying no, no and no to keeping Oklahoma communities safe. The Speaker needs to understand that he has a moral obligation to say yes to making Oklahoma citizens safe from those who rape, steal and murder.”
Capps also pointed to an article in the Wall Street Journal last week that highlighted Oklahoma’s corrections crisis. The Senator said the Journal specifically mentioned the violence that has plagued the Granite prison in recent history.
“Under the direction of Democratic Governor Brad Henry, Oklahoma has begun to capture the national spotlight with our model anti-meth legislation and small business insurance assistance program. It is a shame to see that our prison crisis is now what is making national headlines,” Capps said. “Speaker Hiett has an opportunity to change that by showing true leadership and calling members back to the Capitol to address this crisis now. Waiting until next year is tempting fate and could prove to be a deadly decision on his part.”