The Department of Corrections will relocate its correctional officer training from Wilburton to the Highway Patrol Training Center in Oklahoma City, officials announced today.

The agency will also relocate a separate employee training facility from the College of Continuing Education at OU to the Oklahoma City facility.

The move is expected to save the state more than $500,000 without a reduction in services.

“This move will centralize and consolidate training for correctional officers,” said state Rep. Randy Terrill, a Moore Republican who chairs the House appropriations subcommittee on public safety and judiciary. “We believe this move will produce a nice synergy between the DPS and DOC and save taxpayer money while maintaining training standards.”

“In this time of budget downturn, this is going to save money in one of our most vital public safety areas — corrections,” said state Sen. Anthony Sykes, a Moore Republican who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety and Judiciary. “This helps both agencies better utilize existing resources in the most cost-effective way possible while maintaining public safety standards.”

Sykes noted the announcement comes a day before Senate Republicans plan to discuss their public safety agenda — on Thursday at an 11 a.m. press conference.

Closing the Wilburton facility is expected to save about $250,000 annually and moving the training center at the College of Continuing Education at OU will save another $350,000 — bringing the total annual savings to approximately $600,000.

Staff at the Wilburton and OU facilities will be relocated to fill higher-priority positions currently vacant or understaffed at DOC.

The Department of Corrections just completed the agreement with the Department of Public Safety to use the DPS facility.

As part of the agreement, inmate labor will be used to provide food, janitorial, maintenance and grounds-keeping services at the Oklahoma City facility. As much as 70 percent of food products served at the facility will come from prison farms.

“From a budget standpoint, the Department of Corrections is out of cash,” said Justin Jones, director of the state Department of Corrections. “We have no other option than to look at consolidation of services with other state agencies. This happened to be one option that was very workable and amenable to both state agencies and it provides greater efficiencies without reduction in quality of training or reduction in public safety preparedness.”

“Some agencies have assets that can be used by other agencies in these tough economic times,” said Commissioner of Public Safety Kevin Ward. “It appears the Department of Public Safety’s facility is compatible with DOC’s training needs, so we are glad to share assets and make better use of personnel and infrastructure at both agencies. By combining resources, we believe our two agencies will both save money and put out a great work product.”

The move should also enhance recruitment and retention efforts as well as save some correctional officers the cost of extensive travel to southeast Oklahoma to attend the more-than-month-long training sessions.