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Oklahoma County Jail

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Staff inside the Comanche County Detention Center knew they had a problem when the number of prisoners infected with Covid-19 reached 18 in early May.

Shawnee Public Schools custodian Lavonne Harris wipes down a door knob at the district’s central office.
Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma

Lysol is Lavonne Harris’ most powerful weapon against pandemic.

The custodian for Shawnee Public Schools is wielding the disinfectant inside her district’s school board room to fight off the novel coronavirus that’s infected hundreds of thousands worldwide.

This stuff will “kill all the germs,” she says.

What's The Best Way To Run A Jail?

Sep 19, 2019
Tricia Everest chairs the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma County’s jail is run by the local sheriff, just like most counties in the state.

As news headlines about overcrowding, inmate deaths, lawsuits and maintenance issues became increasingly common, county officials and civic leaders called for a change in jail leadership.

Clay Bennett, center, chairs the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Control of the state’s largest county jail could be placed under the authority of a public-private trust according to a plan considered Thursday by an Oklahoma County advisory group.

The Oklahoma County Jail.
Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

Local government has taken another step to improve cooperation between law enforcement and conditions in the Oklahoma County Jail.

Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

Oklahoma Department of Corrections interim director Joe Allbaugh told his staff Friday to stop sending inmates to the Oklahoma County Jail.

The order came after Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater suggested county commissioners consider cancelling their contract with the state, The Journal Record’s Brian Brus reports:

Roy Williams, at lectern, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, addresses the Oklahoma City Rotary Club 29 on Tuesday about the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to hold off on action regarding the Oklahoma County Jail.
Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

Oklahoma County district attorney David Prater has convinced the federal government to take a step back from possible litigation while the county tries to solve overcrowding and disrepair at the jail facility.

The U.S. Department of Justice has agreed not to take the county to court over the issues for the next two years while a criminal justice task force studies the issue more deeply, The Journal Record’s Dale Denwalt reports:

Guards make their rounds on the eighth floor of the Oklahoma County Jail in Oklahoma City.
Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

For the past few months a committee has been looking at how to pay for a new Oklahoma County Jail, and made its recommendation on Tuesday.

The facility is only about 25 years old, but it’s had construction problems, mold, sewage in the cells – to the point where the U.S. Department of Justice stepped in and said the inmates faced violations of their constitutional rights.

Ginny Sain, left and Anna Marie Lane protest the conditions at the Oklahoma County Jail Tuesday evening.
M. Scott Carter / Oklahoma Watch

The sewage problems at the Oklahoma County’s beleaguered jail continue. In an echo of last year, sewage lines at the jail overflowed recently, flooding an unknown number of cells.

The incident mirrored a problem from 2014 in which a sewage line under the building collapsed and prevented county officials from using the kitchen for months.

On Tuesday a half-dozen protesters took to the sidewalk in front of the jail. They said they wanted the public to know just how bad conditions were in the facility, with one calling it “the worst jail in America.”

The Journal Record Building at 621 N. Robinson Ave. in Oklahoma City.
Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

On Tuesday the City Council of Oklahoma City approved a revised agreement for the redevelopment of one of downtown’s most historically significant buildings.

Robert Patton, Director, Oklahoma Department of Corrections
Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Friction between the state's new prisons director and some county sheriffs is flaring up because of a pair of bills in the state Legislature.

Robert Patton began taking inmates out of county jails shortly after he started at the Department of Corrections about a year ago.

That move angered many sheriffs who count on the $27-per-day the state pays for housing the inmates to help maintain county jail operations.

Corrections officials are now pushing two bills to delay when the department begins paying counties for housing a state inmate.

Oklahoma County

Leaders in Oklahoma County are awaiting feedback from the Department of Justice on whether the agency will force a tax increase to pay for improvements to the county jail.

District 3 Commissioner Ray Vaughn says the county informed the department they've done all they can to improve conditions at the lockup without any new funding from a tax increase.

Vaughn tells The Journal Record that the commission sent a letter updating the federal government shortly before the shutdown Oct. 1. The county has not yet received a response.