Governor Mary Fallin has signed into law a measure designed to streamline the process of transferring prisoners from county jails to Department of Corrections custody.

When a person is sentenced to prison, they are held temporarily in county jail before being transferred into DOC custody to begin their prison sentence. DOC relies on county sheriffs or court clerks to alert the agency that a prisoner is ready for transfer. The agency is not aware that an offender is awaiting transfer until the county delivers the sentencing documents. However, there are no requirements for counties to deliver sentencing documents within a specific time frame.

The lag in communication can prevent DOC from accurately budgeting for offenders and makes the agency unable to provide accurate population and capacity numbers.

Furthermore, DOC is required to pay county jails a per diem fee from the day of an inmate’s sentencing, even if the DOC is not immediately notified of that sentencing. In the 2014 fiscal year, DOC spent about $22 million to reimburse county jails for housing inmates. Many of those were prisoners that could have been transferred to DOC custody and housed at a considerably lesser expense. DOC also has in-house medical services available to inmates at a less expensive rate than those available to county facilities.

House Bill 1630 attempts to reduce those expenses and streamline the transfer process by requiring counties to transmit sentencing documents to DOC within three days of their availability.

In the event that DOC facilities reach capacity, counties will now be given the right to negotiate with DOC to house prisoners at a negotiated rate before private prisons. HB 1630 was developed in consultation with county sheriffs.

The governor said the bill provided cost savings to taxpayers while improving Oklahoma’s corrections systems.

“Oklahoma inmates should be housed in Oklahoma prisons, where they can be securely held, receive access to educational and rehabilitation services, and get credit for time served,” said Fallin. “This legislation streamlines the process of getting our prisoners out of county jails and into state prisons, where the law requires they be sent. It will improve the way our corrections system functions while at the same time saving millions of taxpayer dollars.”

HB 1630 takes affect Nov. 1. It was authored by Rep. Lisa Billy and Sen. Don Barrington.