WILSON—The inaugural correctional officer training academy at the new Wilson Training Center began last week for recruits who will serve at prisons across the state.

Located on 35 acres, the training center is owned by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) and is being utilized for classroom instruction and physical fitness for recruits. The training center was the former Carter County Work Center before the DOC consolidated the 15 work centers in July.

The facility is equipped to host up to 72 recruits each academy and contains amenities such as a kitchen, laundry room as well as male and female living quarters for individuals to stay on-site for the duration of the academy. 

In addition to correctional officer training, the facility will also be used to train other DOC personnel.

Corrections Director Joe M. Allbaugh said the new training center centralizes the academies and allows for higher standards of training for the department’s future officers.

Previously the department had five regional academies running statewide at the same time, costing the department money and resources. Centralizing the academy gives recruits one consistent curriculum to learn.

“The agency’s goal is to provide the best available training to our officers who are putting their lives on the line every time they walk into a prison,” Allbaugh said. “We are using the most knowledgeable and best training officers and instructors available to get these men and women ready to go into a prison environment.

“Prisons are tough places, especially if you aren’t ready for the reality of what an inmate may say or do in a particular situation. It is our job and mission to put our officers in the best position to protect the public and go home safely at the end of their shift.”

The department’s new Director of Training Ken Klingler has been with the DOC for 29 years, beginning his career as a correctional case manager. He worked his way through the corrections ranks and was most recently the warden at the John Lilley Correctional Center in Boley.

He said the academy will soon move from a six to eight week format. The instruction will include more focus on physical fitness, classroom instruction and time inside a state prison facility to shadow veteran officers.

“The new training center will make academies more efficient and help our officers better protect the public,” Klingler said. “With the new training model, these recruits will be better versed to handle the day-to-day operations of what goes on inside a prison. This is just the beginning of what we have planned to make our officers prepared both mentally and physically.”

The department remains approximately 30 percent understaffed for security officer positions. The next academy is scheduled to begin on March 20. Recruiters with the department ask interested candidates to fill out an application available on the DOC website, ok.gov/doc.