Senator Anthony Sykes, (R-Moore), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety and Judiciary, says a recent analysis by the Department of Corrections (DOC) of costs of public prisons vs. private prisons is based on assumptions and does not appear to take into account key factors that cannot be ignored.
“The Director of Corrections revealed a study late last week that claims that the per diem cost of public prisons is lower than the cost of operating private prisons,” Sykes said. “An initial review of this analysis raises several questions and this analysis bears closer examination in the near future.”
Sykes points out that DOC assumes capitol costs for private facilities being similar to that of state facilities in its analysis. However, capitol costs are borne by the taxpayers in maintaining public facilities whereas private facilities bear these costs in their contract.
Public facilities depend on the taxpayers to cover the cost of decaying physical plants, health care, and other indirect costs. Private facilities costs to the state are governed by the per diem contract rate that is locked in, regardless of the costs to the vendors.
Further, Sykes says, many of the factors on which DOC based its analysis appear to be assumptions for which DOC has no factual basis.
“Ultimately, any cost analysis should be weighed against what will meet our public safety goals and what it will cost the taxpayers. The State of Oklahoma has a long history of maintaining a balance between public and private facilities to meet these objectives,” Sykes said.
“It appears that DOC has used this analysis to justify having private prisons and halfway houses bear the entirety of the 5% cut ordered by the Office of State Finance and that no cuts are being imposed on public facilities. At the very least, this action by DOC places the State in potential breach of contract,” Sykes continued. “The State of Oklahoma is contractually bound to various private prison vendors to pay for their services and this unilateral action by the Director of Corrections and his board places the taxpayers at risk of a lawsuit.
“The Senate looks forward to examining this analysis further in an effort to meet Oklahoma’s public safety goals,” Sykes concluded.