Senator: Fort Supply prison could be closure target

William S. Key Corrections Center in Fort Supply.

FORT SUPPLY, Okla. — State Sen. Casey Murdock is urging residents to voice their support for William S. Key Correctional Center in Fort Supply.

Murdock, R-Felt, said in a news release he’s learned the facility is among a handful of prisons throughout the state that could be targeted for closure. Murdock said he’d been told the state is looking at closing five prisons, including Key, in a process that would be similar to the federal government’s Base Realignment and Closure Commission process for determining closure of military bases.

“I’ve asked for a timeline but haven’t gotten any information on that at this point,” Murdock said. “However, I understand that one of the criteria they’ll look at is what the community has to offer. I contend Northwest Oklahoma has a great deal to offer, including the High Plains Technology Center and local hospitals that have a direct and positive impact on the prison.”

Murdock said one of the challenges faced is the condition of the facility, which is outdated and would be expensive to repair.

“It’s a challenge, but not insurmountable,” Murdock said. “It’s worth addressing because this prison employs about 160 people. Those jobs in turn have a direct, positive impact on the economy here in Northwest Oklahoma. Just as importantly, it’s been a safety net, particularly in down times in the oil and gas industry, offering employment opportunities that have allowed citizens to make a valuable contribution in public safety and remain in the area.”

Murdock said it’s critical for everyone in Northwest Oklahoma to express their support for the prison.

“This is a call to action for everyone throughout Senate District 27. For too long, we’ve gotten the short end of the stick. I believe Oklahoma cannot move forward if we leave Northwest Oklahoma and our rural communities behind,” Murdock said. “I cannot fight this battle by myself — I need everyone in Northwest Oklahoma to help fight. I urge you to write letters, call or email the governor and other officials about why William S. Key is so important.”

Murdock's Senate district includes the Panhandle, as well as Woods, Woodward, Major, Dewey, Ellis and Harper counties.

Contacted Wednesday, Department of Corrections spokesman Matt Elliott referred to a statement the department emailed to the Woodward News in a December request.

"The Oklahoma Department of Corrections has no formal plans to close any facility. In our quest to be good stewards of the taxpayers money, ODOC regularly considers the best options available for all services related to incarceration,” the statement read.

A minimum-security prison, William S. Key opened in 1988 on the site of a former mental health hospital. The facility covers 3,200 acres and has an inmate capacity of a little more than 1,100.

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Compiled by staff for Woodward News, a CNHI News Service publication.

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