Members of an exclusive group of executives visited the Oklahoma State Penitentiary Thursday afternoon.
The Young Presidents Organization is an international group which has chapters all around the world, according to groups website at www.ypo.org. To join YPO, an individual must be 45 years of age or younger, must be a CEO/CFO, president or equivalent and must be in charge of a company or organization that has a total employee compensation of minimum of $1,000,000.
Members from the Tulsa and Oklahoma City chapters joined together to tour OSP. Approximately 80 CEOs and their family members embarked on a journey into Oklahoma’s Department of Corrections and viewed first-hand how life is behind bars in a maximum security prison.
“This is a group of CEOs from Oklahoma City and Tulsa who are getting an experience of Oklahoma corrections and learning about how the system works. Hopefully, we will be able to take what we learn and apply it to our businesses,” said Renzi Stone, CEO of Saxum and YPO group chairman.
OSP Warden’s Assistant Terry Crenshaw said, “This is just one of the many things we do at OSP to try to educate and provide a more informative view of corrections to the leaders and citizens in the state of Oklahoma.”
OSP Deputy Warden Linda Morgan said, “I think it is always beneficial to both the employees and the public to interact in order for the public to have a more in-depth understanding of corrections. I’m very proud of this facility because of its history. I am also very proud of the staff that work here because this is a difficult job. I think it is great when the public comes in ... it gives us a chance to dispel a lot of preconceived notions regarding corrections. We get a chance to say, ‘Welcome to our world. Welcome to a society within a society.’ That’s what OSP is, a society within a society.”
An OSP inmate, shackled and cuffed, spoke to the group. The inmate, John Fisher, came from a similar background as the CEOs. He came from a wealthy family and was attending college at the age of 19 when he was arrested for murder. Fisher was also a CEO at the age of 19, and had more than 20 employees. However, he “was a business entrepreneur in the criminal world,” Workman said. “He ended up being involved in a murder case which resulted in a life without parole sentence when he was 19.”
When speaking to the group, Fisher said, “My activities as a 19-year-old have decided where I must be for the rest of my life. I wish someone could see that I am a different person today than when I was 19, when I was just a kid.”
The group toured various areas of the prison, including H0Unit, the home of Oklahoma's death row inmates.
After leaving death row, CEO Matheson said, “I didn’t realize the effect that gangs have had on the penal system. When you think of Tulsa, or Oklahoma, you don’t think of gangs. But if you combine the gang issue with the shortfall of funding, we have a financial disaster looming.”
The group also had the opportunity to hear from a victim of violent crime. The victim spoke about how his mother was murdered by his stepfather on Valentines Day of 2001. His stepfather, now a convicted murderer, is serving a life sentence and resides in OSP’s “F” cellhouse.
Finally, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt joined the group and spoke briefly. He said that Oklahoma is one of four states in the entire country that is seeing a rising violent crime rate. He said he believes this has to do with the amount of money the state spends on public safety.
Pruitt also discussed capital punishment with the group. He talked about how the state has only two doses left of the drugs used in the lethal injection process. “We only have two doses left,” Pruitt said, “and we have four executions scheduled. Utah currently has the firing squad.” Pruitt said that Oklahoma can also utilize the firing squad as a method of carrying out the death penalty if “for some reason lethal injection becomes unconstitutional. The legislature may need to consider amending the statute.” Pruitt said he believes that laws should allow the use of a firing squad to carry out executions when the lethal injection drugs are unavailable.
Before the group concluded their tour, Parker spoke one more time and said, “People that work inside these places are very dedicated professionals. The people that take on corrections as a career are very dedicated and take a lot of pride in what they do.”
Contact Rachel Petersen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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