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Oklahoma House Votes to Lift Floor on Private Prison Per Diem Rates

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The Oklahoma House signed off Monday on spending $2.8 million more dollars on private-prison per diem rates next year.

That's the estimated cost of lawmakers raising the floor for the payments to $43.30 a day. House Appropriations and Budget Chair Kevin Wallace said a vendor whose contract is expiring asked the Department of Corrections for a bigger increase.

"This number was not their full ask. It was a negotiation to get them to commit to house our prisoners for a multiple-year contract," Wallace said.

Based on the number of prisoners Wallace stated and reviews of Board of Corrections meetings, it appears the vendor involved is The GEO Group, which operates Lawton Correctional Center. The change in per diem rates is already reflected in the Department of Corrections' $34 million budget increase.

Rep. David Perryman would rather the state get away from private prisons, noting state corrections employees qualify for government assistance, and they make more than their private-prison counterparts.

"How much more of a burden on the state of Oklahoma are the salaries and the cost of private-prison employees?" Perryman said.

House Bill 3706 also directs DOC to spend $4.8 million on a new probation and parole monitoring system. The measure now heads to the Senate.