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Oklahoma might allow 18 and 19-year-olds to work in prisons

Chris Polansky / KWGS News
Corrections officers patrol Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft, Okla., on Sept. 11, 2020.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is working with lawmakers to possibly change state law so the agency can hire 18 and 19-year-olds to work in state prisons and help address a shortage of nearly 500 workers.

Justin Wolf, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections told KOCO-TVthat not being able to hire 18 and 19-year-olds is setting the agency back. The current minimum age to work for the prison system is 20.

“Not only is that just a numbers game, but it’s also about providing an opportunity for career development and really a lifelong career in corrections,” Wolf said.

State Rep. Justin Humphrey, who is the chair of the Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee, said he is open to the idea.

“I feel like 18 is too young but I will tell you, where we’re at right now, I have backed up and said I’m willing to look at a proposal,” said Humphrey, who worked for 20 years for the state prison system.

Oklahoma Secretary for Public Safety Tricia Everest said while staffing is a critical issue for the prison system, she also encouraged the Department of Corrections to also market to the 35-40 age group.