Invisible prisoners

Behind Oklahoma prison walls are hundreds of prisoners whose information can be accessed easily by the public through the Department of Corrections offender lookup website.

What members of the public may not know is 83 housed inmates virtually do not exist, at least not in open records.

Names, crimes and incarceration information for these 83 individuals cannot be found on the offender lookup, and the information also was not provided in response to an information request.

The reason for the anonymity: Protection, according to Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie.

Under the Interstate Corrections Compact, Oklahoma is housing the 83 inmates from various states, while 82 individuals convicted in Oklahoma are in prisons elsewhere.

The expenses for the housed inmates are paid for by the state housing them, Massie said.

“We generally work a trade, we send them somebody and they send us somebody,” Massie said. “It kind of balances out.”

Where a prisoner ends up has to do with which state is willing to take them or if a state wants to negotiate a trade, he said.

“There are a number of reasons, if you think their life would be at risk in this system, for whatever reason,” Massie said.

Inmates’ lives may be at risk if their cases are high profile or are a particular type of case, or if they are a law enforcement officer who may have sent others to prison, Massie said.

At other times, inmates are transferred because they do not have family in Oklahoma, he said.

The type of facility an inmate is transferred to depends on the inmate’s security classification in their home state, Massie said.

Oklahoma does not have inmates in every state, but many states are part of the compact, with the exception of one or two, he said.

Open records requests submitted to each state garnered mixed responses.

Some state officials provided names, charges and current facilities, while other state officials would not even provide how many compact prisoners the state has in custody. Still others wanted to charge the Enid News & Eagle to provide any information, and some state officials did not respond at all.

In all, provided data from 26 states involved 2,284 Interstate Corrections Compact inmates.

Arkansas

The Arkansas Department of Correction has an inmate search on its website that includes Interstate Corrections Compact prisoners.

There are 23 prisoners listed with information including names, races, genders, sentence lengths, birthdates and pictures.

The prisoners were convicted of crimes in Arkansas and have since been transferred to other states under the compact.

Delaware

In Delaware, there are 24 prisoners from other states, while the Department of Correction has sent 17 of its inmates to different states.

Corrections officials provided a breakdown showing the department has two inmates in Virginia, six in New Jersey, one in New Mexico, two in Florida, two in Massachusetts, one in Minnesota, one in Arizona, one in California and one in Pennsylvania.

The state has received seven inmates from New Jersey, one from Rhode Island, one from Massachusetts, two from New Mexico, three from Florida, four from Virginia and one each from Arizona, Maryland, Minnesota, California, Pennsylvania and Washington.

Idaho

Idaho Department of Correction has transferred 19 inmates out of state, including one to Arizona, one to California, three to Colorado, one to Kansas, one to Montana, three to Ohio, four to Utah, two to Virginia, one to Washington and two to Wyoming.

According to information provided on Aug. 14, the Department of Correction has accepted 18 inmates, including one from Arizona, one from California, two from Colorado, one from Kansas, two from Montana, one from Nevada, one from New Hampshire, one from Ohio, four from Utah, three from Virginia and one from Wyoming.

Illinois

Illinois Department of Corrections officials provided redacted information about Illinois-convicted inmates housed out of state.

The information showed the states where the inmates were transferred, when the inmate was transferred and the length of each inmate’s sentence. It also listed the name of just one inmate, Charles Blair, who currently is housed in Kansas and is sentenced to prison until January 2039.

A total of 31 inmates are housed outside of the state, with one in Arkansas, four in Arizona, two in Florida, three in Kansas, three in Minnesota, two in New Jersey, two in New Mexico, one in Nevada, four in Oklahoma, one in Rhode Island, one in South Dakota, one in Texas, one in Utah, three in Virginia and two in Wisconsin.

Of those 31, 10 of the inmates have been sentenced to life — with one Illinois inmate in Oklahoma sentenced to life. The other three Illinois inmates housed in Oklahoma are serving sentences until 2019, 2050 and 2067.

Iowa

Iowa Department of Corrections Assistant Director Fred Scaletta said, due to security concerns, the department would not identify states with which the department works in the exchange of Interstate Corrections Compact inmates.

There have been 23 Iowa-sentenced inmates transferred out of state, while Iowa has accepted 37 inmates into the state.

Of those transferred out of Iowa, 17 have been sentenced to life, one to 70 years, one to 65 years, one to 60 years, one to 30 years and two to 25 years.

Louisiana

The Louisiana Department of Corrections does not have any Interstate Corrections Compact inmates housed and did not provide if the department had sent any inmates out of the state through the compact.

Maine

Maine Department of Corrections officials provided that there are 18 Maine prisoners currently housed in other states.

There have been 22 inmates transferred from other states to the Maine Department of Corrections.

Minnesota

As of Jan. 1, there were 89 Minnesota inmates housed in other states and 76 out-of-state inmates housed in Minnesota facilities.

A Minnesota Department of Corrections official cited security as the reason for releasing just numbers in connection with Interstate Corrections Compact inmates.

Missouri

According to Missouri Department of Corrections Deputy General Counsel Matthew Briesacher, there are 40 Interstate Corrections Compact offenders being housed in department facilities.

The state currently has 47 inmates housed in other states.

Nebraska

Between July 15, 2004, and July 15, 2014, 87 inmates were transferred to Nebraska from other states, while Nebraska transferred 70 inmates out to other states.

New Hampshire

The New Hampshire Department of Corrections is housing 79 inmates from other states.

It has sent out 139 inmates, as of July 1, under the Interstate Corrections Compact, officials reported.

New Jersey

As of June, there are 84 inmates currently housed out of the state and 92 Interstate Compact inmates from other states housed in the New Jersey Department of Corrections.

The department provided a July report containing the names of 72 New Jersey inmates that have been transferred to other states but redacted the states in which those inmates are currently housed.

Information, including names, on 13 individuals was redacted.

Among the named inmates — according to news reports on their cases — is an inmate convicted of strangling his 7-year-old son, a white supremacist convicted of beating a black man to death and a man found guilty of the execution-style murder of his boss.

New Mexico

New Mexico facilities are housing 90 compact inmates from other states, while the New Mexico Corrections Department has transferred 76 inmates to other states.

North Carolina

There are currently 10 Interstate Corrections Compact prisoners housed out of the state and 11 housed within North Carolina.

North Carolina Department of Public Safety Communications Director Pamela Walker said, due to security concerns, further information on Interstate Corrections Compact inmates is not public record.

Oregon

Oregon has transferred 76 inmates out of state under the Interstate Corrections Compact.

The Oregon Department of Corrections is housing 133 inmates from other states.

Pennsylvania

Corrections authorities provided information and the names of Interstate Corrections Compact inmates transferred out of Pennsylvania as of July 27.

Charges for nine of the 10 inmates included murder convictions. The 10th inmate was convicted of burglary.

Rhode Island

As of July, there were 44 Rhode Island inmates housed in other states, while the state was housing 53 inmates from outside of the state.

There is one Rhode Island inmate in Arkansas, 11 in Connecticut, one in Delaware, one in Maine, eight in Massachusetts, four in New Hampshire, three in New Jersey, one in New Mexico, three in Ohio, four in Florida, one in Virginia, one in Washington, one in Pennsylvania, three in the U.S. and one listed as confidential.

Of the out-of-state prisoners housed in Rhode Island, there are 14 from Connecticut, one from Illinois, 15 from Massachusetts, five from New Hampshire, three from New Jersey, three from New Mexico, three from Ohio, three from Virginia, two from the U.S. and one each from Oregon, Florida, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Tennessee

Tennessee has sent four inmates to other states and is housing four inmates from other states.

Texas

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is housing 14 Interstate Corrections Compact inmates and has sent nine inmates to other states.

Utah

The Utah Department of Corrections participates in the Interstate Corrections Compact and the Western Interstate Corrections Compact.

Utah currently has 32 inmates incarcerated in other states and 34 inmates from other states incarcerated in Utah.

“Your request for specific information related to those inmates (name, birthdate, crimes, current location, sentence, reason for transfer and date of transfer) is denied based on Utah Government Records Access and Management Act ... and Interstate Compact contracts with other states,” Utah Department of Corrections spokeswoman Brooke Adams said in an e0mail.

Vermont

There are five inmates from other states in Vermont under the Interstate Corrections Compact.

The Vermont Department of Corrections released the names, charges and sentences of 11 of its inmates currently housed in other states.

Locations were redacted for the 11 inmates because disclosure of the information “could threaten the safety of the individuals,” according to Vermont Department of Corrections Public Records Officer David Turner.

Virginia

The Virginia Department of Corrections currently has 108 inmates in other states and 120 inmates from other states in its custody.

Washington

The Washington State Department of Corrections reported it is housing 63 inmates from other states and 59 of its inmates are housed elsewhere.

Those numbers break down to one inmate transferred into Washington from Alabama, two from Arizona, three from California, six from Colorado, four from Florida, one from Idaho, two from Kansas, five from Maryland, three from Minnesota, one from Missouri, three from Montana, one from New Hampshire, two from New Mexico, one from Nevada, three from Oklahoma, five from Oregon, one from Rhode Island, one from South Carolina, two from Utah, two from Virginia, two from Wyoming and 12 from Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The department has transferred two inmates to Arizona, six to California, three to Colorado, one to Delaware, six to Florida, two to Kansas, one to Kentucky, four to Maryland, three to Minnesota, two to Montana, two to New Hampshire, two to Nevada, two to Oklahoma, three to Oregon, one to Rhode Island, one to South Carolina, one to South Dakota, two to Utah, one to Wisconsin, three to Wyoming and 11 to Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Wisconsin

There are 30 inmates sentenced in Wisconsin currently in prisons out of state, while 35 federal or other state-sentenced inmates are being held in Wisconsin prisons under the Interstate Corrections Compact.

Wyoming

The Wyoming Department of Corrections presently has 25 inmates housed in 15 other states. There are 28 inmates from 17 states housed in the WDOC.

According to Wyoming Department of Corrections Deputy Director Steve Lindly, the Wyoming Public Records Act addresses denying public records requests if the information “might jeopardize either the security of a facility or the physical safety of an individual.”

“The vast majority of inmates who are moved via the inmate compact to another state, or received from another state, are due to prison adjustment and/or prison security reasons,” he said. “We do not place the names of these individuals on our public sites for these reasons and we do not release the names of these individuals publicly for these reasons.”

Neither Arizona nor Kentucky officials would release information about Interstate Corrections Compact inmates.

Arizona officials said that under the terms of the compact contract and state statute, the Arizona Department of Corrections is precluded from releasing the requested information.

“Kentucky inmates that are housed in other states (or other state inmates that are housed in Kentucky) are done so for the sake of their security,” Kentucky Department of Corrections Public Information Officer Todd Henson said. “Therefore, the Kentucky Department of Corrections does not release any information concerning the ‘number of’ or ‘location of’ these inmates.”

West Virginia officials said the requested data does not exist in the manner requested and would entail creating a new document.

“Under the Freedom of Information Act, the DOC is required to allow the inspection of existing documents, but is not obligated to create documents for purposes of the Act,” West Virginia Division of Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein wrote in a letter.

A Florida Department of Corrections official offered to release information for fees of $8.47 for the number of Interstate Corrections Compact inmates connected to the state, or $541.49 for the names and some other information on the inmates.

Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina and South Dakota did not respond to request for information.

Staff writer Dale Denwalt contributed to this story.

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Involved in news reporting for about 15 years, I've been with the Enid News & Eagle since 2014, when my family moved to Enid to be on the family farm.

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