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Reports from the jail, the county and municipal courts, and service providers were given to the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council (CJAC) in their monthly meeting Thursday afternoon.

More centrally, CARES Act funding to the County and City was discussed, with input from several members of the Council.

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CARES Act

Chairman Clay Bennett said he hopes “we can work together on this,” regarding plans for the CARES Act funding to the city and county.

Bennett asked Greg Williams, CEO of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust), if he had ideas.

Williams said that one idea his team had was to use some of the money to move the jail’s medical facilities to the ground floor of the jail. Currently, the medical facilities are located on the 13th floor.

Commissioners’ Response

District 3 County Commissioner Kevin Calvey, a member of the Council, explained that the Board of County Commissioners has the final say in expenditures of the CARES money, but that they would like input from CJAC and the Jail Trust.

Calvey suggested some practical capital improvements to the jail to make its resistance to future outbreaks more robust. He stated that he wanted to think of changes that could be transformational.

He explained that the County has until the end of this year to enter contracts for the expenditure of the funds and that he wanted to be strategic about using the County’s $47 million CARES allocation for the long-term good.

Bennett asked for comment from District 1 Commissioner Carrie Blumert. Blumert said that the County welcomes feedback and input from the Council, and that the suggestions ultimately will have to go through the County Budget Board, made up of the elected officials of the County.

Blumert explained that currently a Budget Evaluation Team is hashing out the details of a process for consideration of these expenditures.

City Perspective

City Manager Craig Freeman explained to the Council that the City of Oklahoma City has a CARES team that is currently evaluating all the requirements for CARES Fund spending in order to make recommendations to the City for their $114 million allocation.

Dan Straughan, Executive Director of the Homeless Alliance, explained to the Council that the Alliance and other service providers were advocating for 1% of the CARES funding to be applied to eviction relief.

“We believe this is a win-win-win idea,” said Straughan. “It will prevent a sharp increase in homelessness, it will make landlords whole, and it will save the City and County from having to go through the process of evictions.”

Chamber Involvement

Bennett expressed an interest in forming an entity to work with all involved parties in order to “bring forth the right package” of expenditures and recommended that Roy Williams, president, and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce help put that entity together.

Bennett suggested that all involved would be best served if that entity was “transparent” and “highly accountable.”

He then said that perhaps further discussion of such an entity continue offline.

Reports

Dr. William Cooper, Chief Medical Officer at Turn Key Health, the company that provides healthcare services in the Oklahoma County Jail, gave a report explaining that there have been no positive cases of COVID-19 in the jail.

Cooper pointed to the precautions being taken by the jail as being an industry standard. Indeed, Turnkey and the Jail staff have been sharing their techniques with other jails around the region to assist in their response to the pandemic.

Judge Ray Elliot, Presiding Judge of Oklahoma and Canadian County Courts, discussed in brief the current situation with court proceedings. He expressed mild frustration about media coverage of the last week in calling it a “reopening of the court.” He said that he and other staff have been there working the whole time.

His Honor went on to explain the renewing of court services this week and the coming expansion of services.

Elliott said that the backlog of cases to be heard is a coming “storm, to put it mildly.” The courts have missed seven weeks of jury terms, he said. When jury trials resume in August, there will be 700 trials to be heard by the end of the year.

The next meeting of the CJAC will be held June 18 at 3:00 pm. The meeting will likely be held by teleconference or videoconference, according to the Chairman.