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Oklahoma prisons struggle to maintain staffing despite numerous openings
By tulsaworld.com
Published: 06/27/2012

HOMINY - To fill several dozen open jobs providing security at the Dick Conner Correctional Center this past year, administrators interviewed 46 candidates.

Twenty-eight were hired, but 33 have since left - many for jobs in other industries.

"It's hard to make much headway," Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said.

There are jobs for the taking in corrections - if you pass the background check and don't mind working lots of overtime in remote locales, surrounded by convicted criminals and a backdrop of razor wire and locked corridors.

In an economy where full-time jobs with benefits have been tough to come by, there's great job security in securing prisons. The Tulsa World toured the Dick Conner facility last week, on a day when administrators interviewed candidates for nine open jobs - and filled five.

"We're still well below our funded level (for staffing)," Deputy Warden James Reed said.

Officers who stick around often get stuck working double shifts, because a minimum of 19 fixed security posts must be staffed for each shift.

"That's what's really driving morale down now is the number of doubles," he said. "It's a rough life."

At the Oklahoma State Reformatory, the medium- and minimum-security prison in Granite, smack dab between Elk City and Altus in western Oklahoma, they're struggling to stay even 50 percent staffed, Massie said.

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