Graph of the Day: Corrections staffing way down while inmate population rises

Today’s Graph of the Day shows that the number of correctional officers staffing Oklahoma prisons has fallen by 24.5 percent since 2000 and by 20 percent just in the past five years, while the number of inmates continues to rise.


In 2000, the state had 15,184 inmates in public prisons and 2,114 correctional officers, a ratio of 1 officer for every 7.2 inmates. By 2013, there were 2,685 more inmates but 518 fewer correctional officers; the  prisoner-to-officer ratio had jumped to 12.2: 1 (The data is for public prisons only; in the past several years, as public prisons have reached capacity, more inmates are being housed in private prisons and county jails).

The drop in staffing has been especially severe since 2008: over the past five years, there has been a loss of 408 correctional  officers. As of June 30, 2013, the Department of Corrections was staffed at just 61.6 percent of authorized positions. An additional 54 officer positions had been lost as of November 30th.

According to a national survey released in December by the Oklahoma Corrections Professionals, Oklahoma’s ratio of correctional officers to inmates (11.7:1) was the worst among at least 49 states and more than twice the national average (5.5:1). This data seemed to contradict the recent claim by Governor Mary Fallin’s general counsel, Steve Mullins, that “the staffing ratios the DOC uses are similar to staffing ratios used by almost all other prisons across the country.”


Former Executive Director David Blatt joined OK Policy in 2008 and served as its Executive Director from 2010 to 2019. He previously served as Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project of Tulsa County and as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta. David has been selected as Political Scientist of the Year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association, Local Social Justice Champion by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, and Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

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