Humphrey Responds to DOC on 'Group Disturbance' in Lawton

May 15, 2024
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, today responded to what the Department of Corrections (DOC) is calling a "group disturbance" at the Lawton Correctional and Rehabilitation Facility.

Humphrey, who chairs the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee, recently criticized the department after two inmates were killed at the facility, which is managed by The Geo Group, a private owner. Initial reports said more than 30 people, including a corrections officer, were injured in the May 10 event. Corrections officials later downgraded that report to say only three people were injured.

"I have been warning about escalation for months now in our state prison system, and here within the last two weeks we have multiple reports of incidences of violence resulting in death or injury in state prisons," Humphrey said. "And these are just the latest in a long list of such reports."

In addition to the May 10 incident in Lawton, there was another report of inmate-on-inmate assault that sent two to the hospital with minor injuries from the same facility the week prior. Humphrey said he also received reports of a stabbing at a prison in Holdenville during the same timeframe. In addition, DOC reported that a deputy warden at the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center was terminated and arrested May 10 for the introduction of contraband into a penal institution.

Upon first hearing reports of two killed and 30 injured in Lawton, Humphrey called the Lawton incident a "mini riot" and said at the very least it was a precursor to a riot.

In a May 13 press release, DOC Chief of Public Relations Kay Thompson called the event a "group disturbance" and said Humphrey "seems to lack an understanding of precisely what constitutes a riot in a correctional setting." She said the department’s definition of a riot was "when inmates band together and are violent toward the facility and staff, causing massive damage and disrupting operations."

Humphrey said her definition sounds "exactly like what is reported to have happened in Lawton. It's not my fault if the department can't count – there's a big discrepancy between 30 injured and three."

Thompson also reportedly told media outlets the "disturbance" happened as a result of human error, when two rival gangs were place in the same area together.

Humphrey said he looks forward to Thompson following through on her public promise to release full details of the event once an investigation is complete. But he again is calling for an outside investigation of this and other reports of rapes, murders, assaults and other human rights violations at state prisons.

Humphrey said he also takes issue with Thompson's claim he is misrepresenting the truth to fit a "self-serving" narrative.

"My political career has been greatly harmed because of my willingness to take a stand on this and other issues that involve millions of taxpayer dollars," Humphrey said. "Bottom line is I will keep fighting for the rights of our correctional officers and our inmates and their family members and others who are affected by what's happening behind the walls of our corrections' centers."

Humphrey has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and served over 20 years in the DOC. He is certified by the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET), and has many other law enforcement certifications or endorsements. He previously served as chair of the House Public Safety Committee.

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