January 18, 2022 |

Budget cuts at the Wyoming Department of Corrections over the last two years have led to big changes in the state prison system. DOC Director Dan Shannon told the Joint Appropriations Committee at a recent budget meeting that he’s uncertain he can operate the agency within this year’s $260 million target.

Pictured above: File photo of Wyoming State Penitentiary. Photo by Cali O’Hare/Bigfoot 99.


Last year, the DOC budget started at $289 million. After two big rounds of cuts necessitated by the loss of revenues blamed on COVID-19, the final figure dropped to $265 million. Governor Mark Gordon submitted a budget request for DOC this year that is $5 million less, or $260 million. Shannon told the JAC the cuts have resulted in the elimination of positions and the reorganization of the agency.


Among the changes, the DOC has been trimmed from 11 divisions to four. One Chief Financial Officer now manages all fiscal operations, rather than by wardens and administrators at each of the five prison facilities across the state. Three training departments have been trimmed to one.


Another factor in reducing overhead has been the downsizing of the inmate population. Releases and a court system that slowed to a standstill during the pandemic are the reason for fewer prisoners. Shannon reported that more inmates were released in 2021 than in the previous five years.

Because the confined physical spaces of prison carry a higher risk of COVID-19 infection that social situations in the world outside the walls, offenders who had been serving their sentences out of state were brought home. Their return resulted in complex housing arrangements, which Shannon characterized as “all over the map” as prison officials responded to the influx and quarantines brought on by outbreaks.

By the end of December, 60 percent of the inmate population across Wyoming is vaccinated, Shannon said. Booster shots have been administered to 20 percent of the inmates. Shannon added that the DOC has continued to meet its mission even facing adversity.

The DOC operates 24 field offices around the state in addition to the five prison facilities. The legislature opens the budget session on February 14.

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