Oklahoma Senate Appropriations Chair Roger Thompson, Senator Casey Murdock comment after hearing on DOC closure of William S. Key Correctional Center

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report
OKLAHOMA CITY – Senate Appropriations Chair Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, and Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, issued the following statements after the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing Tuesday (June 29) on the Department of Corrections’ (DOC) announcement of the closing of the William S. Key Correctional Center in Fort Supply.

Among those appearing before the committee were Tricia Everest, Cabinet Secretary of Public Safety, Deputy Secretary Jason Nelson, Scott Crow, DOC Director, and Ashlee Clemmons, DOC Chief Financial Officer.

In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK.com, Senator Thompson said:

“I think one of the things that we heard today was that Secretary Everest and others acknowledged that this was handled wrongly, that the chain of communication could have been a lot better, not only with the Legislature but with area leaders. I was hoping to learn more about the financial savings. As appropriations chair, if we’re closing down a facility, in my mind we’ve got to be saving more than just the $1.3 million to $1.5 million for upkeep on the grounds—there has to be a savings somewhere else. 

“There’s more we need to examine, including the impact on other areas, including health care and historical preservation. We’re concerned about the hospital in Buffalo where inmates are taken care of. I understand when the prison in Sayre was closed, the hospital closed shortly thereafter. We’re coming out of a pandemic, and I’m very much concerned about health care. So now we’ll start drilling down on the fiscal impact. We need to know where the dollars come from and where they go, but we also need to make sure we serve the needs of the people of Oklahoma, and right now northwestern Oklahoma seems to be hurting because of this decision made by the Department of Corrections.”

Thompson is the state Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman.

Senator Murdock commented as follows after this week’s hearing: 

“First of all, I want to thank Chairman Thompson for holding this hearing. The ripple effects that will happen in northwest Oklahoma will be long-lasting. It’s a loss of over 140 jobs, and Fort Supply and Woodward County will be hurt economically. People were already struggling to survive because of downturns in the oil industry. This will compound that.

“I think this decision was hastily done—they may have been looking at it, but I don’t think they considered how devastating this is going to be for the community and for the entire area.”