At Tuesday night’s city council meeting the board voted to authorize Altus City Manager Janice Cain to sign a six-week contract with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections or DOC to use inmates for city work.
The Oklahoma DOC special project agreement form states the requesting agency as the City of Altus.
“It is a temporary contract to assist the city departments and help them get through the struggle of losing the inmate labor,” Cain said.
Officials said the contract will need some modifications to tailor it to the city’s needs for special events and certain departments. It will be on an interim basis. Altus officials and the DOC still need to determine how many inmates will be used and what they will do. Some city departments that were accustomed to using inmate labor have been experiencing difficulties since a local work center was closed to save money.
The citizens of Altus will feel and see the differences around town. The grass a little taller than normal at the city cemetery with 14,000 graves. The Altus Animal Shelter relies heavily on volunteers to help feed and bathe animals, and clean out kennels.The regular cleaning routine of the city complex is also missing the hard work of the inmates.
The purpose of the community work centers was to help fulfill projects and save the taxpayers money without displacement of jobs, and also help the offenders learn to become useful, productive citizens.
The Altus Community Work Center started in 1989 when Les Crabtree with the DOC made initially contacted city officials and proposed idea of a work center.
Altus City Council held a special meeting in May 1990, discussed the idea and scheduled a public hearing in November 1990. Crabtree spoke at the meeting and described the requirements, responsibilities, and financial investment needed to become a DOC work center.
Then state Rep. Howard Cotner (D-Altus) introduced a bill in 1991, requesting Altus obtain a work center. Fourteen communities applied, but only five requests would be granted. On July 31, 1992, Altus was selected as one of the five communities to receive a DOC community work center.
In May 2016 , Interim Corrections Director Joe Albaugh proposed a plan to close the 15 work centers in Ardmore, Beaver, Holdenville, Frederick, Hollis, Madill, Sayre, Waurika, Altus, Carter, Elk City, Hobart, Idabel, Mangum and Walters, providing 1, 257 beds. One work center inmate cost the state $36.31 per day, which totals $13,253.15 per year.
The DOC unanimously approved the plan to move the low-risk work center inmates to the Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite and move the higher risk prisoners to a leased space at the Northfork Correctional Facility in Sayre to help the state save an estimated $18 million a year.
Reach Mary O. Esparza at 580-482-1221, ext. 2077.