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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council, or CJAC, held its monthly meeting on Thursday afternoon at NorthCare.

CJAC is a para-governmental recommending body composed of government officials, law enforcement, court staff, service providers, the Chamber of Commerce, and the fabulously wealthy.

Facilities Subcommittee member Sue Ann Arnall gave a review of the current status of the physical Jail facility, and CJAC Executive Director Tim Tardibono discussed ongoing legislation that could have an impact on the local criminal legal landscape.

In addition to a legislative update, Tardibono also discussed the Oklahoma County Jail’s medical release policies.

Marty Peercy reports Local government

Facility Update

Sue Ann Arnall, a trustee of the Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust) and member of CJAC, was called on to give an update of the Facilities Subcommittee.

Arnall explained that the most recent subcommittee meeting was at the Jail, and many improvements were obvious. The subcommittee members heard an explanation of some improvements coming soon.

Some improvements and renovations have not been done yet since they are expensive and Jail leadership is waiting to find out if a new Jail will be built, explained Arnall.

Arnall said that one of the most needed improvements at the Jail is to update the booking area to streamline the process of booking people into the Jail. Arnall said that the current configuration of the booking area makes it a cramped space. The Jail leadership have plans to remove a couple of walls, opening up a great deal of space.

The sally port needs work, too. It is a drive-up area with heavy garage-type doors on either end designed to allow law enforcement to bring arrestees to the Jail for booking or to transfer detainees to and from the courthouse. It is meant to stop those in custody from sneaking or running off as they are moved to/from vehicles and the Jail. 

A new tool the Jail has is a body scanner, Arnall said. The scanner can detect if somebody is smuggling in contraband inside their body. This could prevent some deaths in the jail, Arnall said.

According to Arnall, these renovations are part of a larger plan to make the booking process a lot shorter and more humane. The current process takes as long as 12 hours sometimes. The goal is to bring that down to an approximate two-hour window.

Part of that update to the process will be moving the medical assessment portion, which is usually at the end of the process, to the very first part of booking.

Arnall made the claim that many of the deaths in the Jail have been due to jailing people who were already ill. Arnall’s contention is that if the medical assessment comes at the beginning of the booking process, a potential detainee could be denied booking and be sent to a level of more appropriate care.

That dovetailed into a discussion about medical release policies for the Jail.

Medical Release

Timothy Tardibono, Executive Director of CJAC, gave a presentation about the Pretrial and Case Processing Subcommittee.

Tardibono said that the subcommittee has been especially focused on the current policies for obtaining a medical release for a detainee at the Jail. Changes to those policies require an order from the presiding judge of the judicial district.

For now, Tardibono explained, they want to make sure the best possible information is getting to judges who might hear medical releases, which are categorized as a type of “Own Recognizance” bond (OR bond).

A difficulty in allowing a medical OR bond, is that the detainee must have someplace to go from medical treatment. Many people do not have that luxury. If somebody has no home or shelter to go to from hospital, the detainee will not be granted their release. Almost no homeless shelters in Oklahoma have the ability to care for somebody with acute medical issues. 

Somebody with no support network will simply be denied a release, which we know has led to deaths in the Jail.

For now, Judge Truong has requested to hear all Medical OR cases that have not already been assigned to a different judge.

Legislative Update

Tardibono went on to give the group an update on a couple of points of interest in the state legislature.

SB 3294 seeks to increase appropriations for counties to use for treatment programs from money saved by not sending people to prison. This is in response to SQ 780’s success so far in the state. Money saved by not incarcerating people with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is, according to the SQ overwhelmingly approved by Oklahoma voters, to be used for treatment and diversion services like Drug Court. Not all counties have the resources for those services. This would feasibly fund the creation of more.

One bill being fought by Court Clerks for counties across the state, SB 1545, would create a situation where Court Clerk offices would be doing redundant paperwork.

Head of the Public Defenders Office, Bob Ravitz, explained a far greater concern with the bill. The bill as it currently stands includes language that will keep more people detained for longer.

The bill includes the “presumption of detention,” which Ravitz says will diminish the number of OR bonds issued and will drive up the static population numbers of the Jail.

“If this thing passes, you better build the jail bigger than for 1800!” Ravitz declared, referencing the CJAC’s plan to build a jail facility even larger than the current one.

Tardibono said the bill is currently in a “holding pattern.”

CJAC will meet again on Thursday, May 19 at 3:00 p.m. at NorthCare.

Last Updated April 21, 2022, 8:29 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor