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Architectural-engineering Firm Aims To Fix Oklahoma County’s Constitutionally Challenged Jail

An architectural-engineering firm won a $125,000 contract in June to evaluate the state’s largest county jail and propose structural reforms.

Frankfurt Short & Bruza was hired by the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council or CJAC. Their research will focus on improving the Oklahoma County Detention Center’s capacity to provide medical care, education and addiction treatment.

Timothy Tardibono is the advisory council’s executive director. He also hopes the consultant will find solutions to structural problems that make the detention center dangerous.

The jail has been plagued by violence, medical emergencies and suicides for decades. At least 11 detainees died in the last year alone.

Tardibono believes the consultant will deliver suggestions for a design that can also help prevent violence, suicides and provide higher quality care to detainees who have serious illnesses.

Tardibono says the consultant is working with a multidisciplinary team that includes experts in mental and behavioral health, public finance and community relations.

He says incorporating county residents’ suggestions in the new jail design is a priority for the advisory council.

“We want to hear from … people that have been in the county jail,” Tardibono said. “The new structure, whatever it is, whatever it looks like, is going to be better situated to provide them the kind of rights that (the U.S. Constitution) and our state law requires them to have.”

However, Tardibono admitted the suggested design will not provide a perfect solution. There will still be a struggle to adequately staff the jail and resolve other decades-long systemic problems inside the facility, and the county’s broader justice system.

Frankfurt Short & Bruza is expected to deliver its recommendations in the fall.

The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority will decide whether to adopt those recommendations and hire a contractor to bring them to life.

Quinton Chandler joined StateImpact Oklahoma in January 2018, focusing on criminal justice reporting.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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