Carl’s Capitol Comment: Representative discusses closing of Fort Supply

I was saddened and disappointed recently to learn of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections decision to close the William S. Key Correctional Center in Fort Supply by year’s end.

The minimum-security prison employs about 140 people from our House district and surrounding areas. This will greatly affect our communities, and the loss of so many jobs is a major blow to Northwest Oklahoma in many ways.

After receiving news of the department’s decision, I spoke with the governor. He said he supported DOC’s decision as the need for minimum prison beds has diminished in recent years due to the effects of sentencing reforms approved by Oklahoma voters in State Question 780. The age and condition of the more than 70-year-old facility also was a factor. Both DOC and the governor felt it would be too expensive to rehab the facility that was not originally constructed to serve as a prison.

I asked the governor for his help, through the Department of Commerce, to help us repurpose this facility or to attract another major employer to our area to help us keep the employees who will lose their jobs at the prison. This isn’t just the employees, it’s their families as well. This could affect our schools, our small businesses, our housing market and our overall economy. In rural Oklahoma, it’s not like you can just go down the street to get another job. Decent-paying jobs can be hard to find.

The governor said he will do what he can to help. DOC said they will work to address the needs of the employees, and they will move the approximately 750 prisoners currently housed at the facility to other prisons in their system.

The Senate Appropriations Committee met this week to further analyze the criteria of the prison closing and evaluate where the monies that had been appropriated to William S. Key were projected to be used. I applaud the Senate budget chair for requesting this hearing. I will continue to do what I can to help on this situation.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

You may reach me by email at carl.newton@okhouse.gov, or phone me at 405-557-7339. May God Bless you and the State of Oklahoma.

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