ATOKA COUNTY, OK - In the last three and a half years, 18 inmates have walked out of two minimum security correctional centers in Atoka County. Thursday, News 12 asked the DOC why criminals with violent pasts are housed in these facilities, and if the DOC will now do more to keep them locked up.
In just three and a half years, 12 inmates have escaped from the Howard McLeod Correctional Center, and 6 have walked away from the Mack Alford Correctional Center minimum security unit.
Thursday, we asked the Oklahoma Department of Corrections how they plan to keep inmates in custody.
"Well the only thing that would prevent that, given the current fiscal plan, is if you put a fence around it, you know a security fence, which is expensive and not money in the budget for that at the current time," said DOC public information officer Jerry Massie.
In May of 2013, the Oklahoma House approved a $13 million dollar supplemental appropriation for the DOC. But for fiscal year 2014, no funds were requested for fencing at either facility.
Massie says a minimum security prison is designed to help prepare criminals for their release back into society, and none of them are fenced.
He also says they use a classification tool to decide who is eligible to be housed in minimum security, and that includes: the crime, length of the sentence, behavior, and even age.
But when we looked at the DOC website for Howard McLeod, we found convicted rapists, and men serving time for maiming, aggravated assault, and other violent crimes.
When 56-year-old Kenneth Beasley walked away in April while serving time for kidnapping and a prior escape, Atoka County law enforcement expressed concern, "I think he's made some statements, I don't know how true that is, but we're gonna take him serious," said Atoka County Under Sheriff Tony Taylor.
State senator Josh Brecheen, says he went to a DOC board meeting at Mack Alford just last week, to look into the recent escapes, and has requested more information about both facilities' walk off rates.
"We'll be using that information to make some suggestions if we think that there is some modifications that need to be made in how the Board of Corrections DOC makes determinations on someone being placed in minimum security supervision," said Senator Brecheen.
Massie did tell News 12, most criminals are caught within hours after they escape, and some of them even turn themselves back in.