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July 25, 2013

Interim director pick expected for Okla. prisons

OKLAHOMA CITY —

The Oklahoma Board of Corrections is expected to pick a temporary head of the state’s prison system while it searches for a fulltime replacement for longtime Director Justin Jones, who is stepping down.

The Board is scheduled to go into a closed session during its regular meeting Friday at the women’s prison in McLoud for the purpose of selecting an interim director.

A 36-year veteran of the Oklahoma prison system, Jones announced his resignation last month after highly publicized clashes with the governor’s office and legislative leaders over the growing use of private prisons to house state inmates. The private prison lobby is an influential one at the state Capitol, and many lawmakers support shifting more inmates into private facilities, a concept Jones refused to endorse.

Newly elected Board Chairman Kevin Gross said last month the panel likely will consider one of the “internal senior management people” as interim director after Jones steps down on Aug. 18. A three-member panel of board members is launching a national search for a new director, and Gross acknowledged that the governor’s office and Legislature is expected to play a role in that process.

Gross said he expects the search process to take several months and that whoever is selected will have to be confirmed by the state Senate once the legislative session begins in February.

Jones earns about $132,500 a year as director. The official job posting on the state website lists a potential salary range from $132,000 to $187,292.

The board on Friday also is expected to approve a contract extension between the state and private prison GEO Group, Inc., while the two sides negotiate a new contract. GEO operates a 2,500-bed private prison in Lawton.

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