The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

April 2, 2014

Prison overcrowding, understaffing need to be addressed

ENID, Okla. — We find recent reports of the Helena prison homicide very troubling, but we can’t say we’re completely surprised.

Inmate Timothy Dunivan, 61, was found dead at the James Crabtree Correctional Center at about 8 a.m. Saturday, according to Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie.

The DOC’s internal affairs division is investigating and an autopsy still is pending.

We may not know the alleged perpetrator’s identity until charges are filed, which could be quite some time. The suspect, who has been moved to a different facility, used a homemade knife-like weapon.

We also don’t know how many people were working at the time of the homicide.

Back in January, James Crabtree Correctional Center Warden Janet Dowling told the Enid noon AMBUCS she was having a hard time getting enough people to fill all the open positions at her facility.

Speaking of overcrowding and understaffing, the warden said budget constraints required her to have fewer employees.

With the booming oil and gas industry near Helena, she was unable to meet a lower level of budgeted staffing and had a total staff of 121.

“At the agency, we have not had any raises for seven years,” Dowling said in January. “Starting pay for a correctional officer at my facility is $11.83 an hour.”

Recruitment and retention challenges mean the best staffing was 15 on the day shift and 12 on the night shift to watch 1,010 inmates.

Although some have suggested privatizing prisons, the DOC has more offenders than beds. That’s a major problem that needs to be addressed.

This has been an ongoing issue. Unfortunately, it takes another grim headline to raise awareness.

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