OKLAHOMA CITY —
Mullins said in an interview that after Fallin had provided her letter of support for federal JRI grant money, most state agencies and groups due to receive the money decided they didn’t need the funding after all.
“If they didn’t need the money, then we didn’t need the coordinator for all the money,” Mullins said.
Previously, directors of two agencies that would play key roles in the JRI – Jones, of the corrections department, and White, of the mental health department – had expressed support for the reform initiative. They also have repeatedly called for more funding of their agencies.
A month would pass before Steele and Prater learned of governor’s rejection of federal funds.
Private-Prison Firms' Interest
Before the justice initiative was signed into law in May 2012, private prison groups expressed interest in the program, emails show.
On April 4, 2012, Geo Group lobbyist Brett “Cooper” Robinson sent an email to Frazier and Fallin’s policy director Katie Altshuler, asking them to sit in on a meeting between Geo Group representatives and Northrup.
Representing Geo Group at the meeting were John Hurley, president; Reed Smith, senior vice-president; Claude Chester, warden at the company’s Lawton facility, and Tonya Lee, a lobbyist representing the firm, according to the email. Geo Group operates the Lawton Correctional Facility and is contracted to operate an empty private prison in Hinton.
“We will be discussing per diems (state payments to private prison operators) and realignment of max prisoners from OSP (Oklahoma State Penitentiary),” Robinson wrote. “Would like to hear your thoughts on JRI and future impact on corrections.”
Mullins said any talk about the justice initiative during that meeting would have been forwarded to the Department of Corrections.
“The only discussion with Geo would have been: they would have come in and pitched that they could have done something for us cheaper. And we would have taken that pitch and given it to the Department of Corrections,” Mullins said.