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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — On Wednesday morning the new Citizens Advisory Board (CAB) of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust) held its third meeting.

They heard a report from Jail CEO Greg Williams, before moving on to hold a robust discussion about the potential make-up of several subcommittees planned for the CAB.

The group also discussed, but ultimately took little action, on a request for a recommendation to fill the vacant at-large seat on the Jail Trust after Joe Albaugh’s resignation last month.

Marty Peercy reports Local government

CEO Report

Greg Williams, CEO of the Jail Trust, delivered a standard report on Jail operations, using largely the same data as last week’s report to the Jail Trust. 

Previous reporting: Jail Trust narrowly reaches quorum, takes little action, hears jail report

According to Wednesday’s somewhat updated data, the current population of the Jail is 1,615. Williams said that the average population last year was around 1,780, and he expects this year’s average to be in the low 1600s.

Readers may remember that the plans for the recommended new jail facility include room for 1,800 detainees.

greg williams
Greg Williams, CEO of the Oklahoma County Jail Trust and administrator of the Oklahoma Count Detention Center or Jail. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

Williams said that staffing continues to be an issue. The Jail currently has 308 total employees. The Jail is budgeted for 350 employees, and Williams said closer to 400 would be ideal. Turnover is a continuing issue, but Williams explained that the 15-20 employees the Jail loses each month are typically in the very beginning of their service. Generally, if an employee makes it 60 days, they will make it for a year, according to Williams. New employees get a pay raise at 60 days, and another pay raise at one year of service. New employees who leave quickly, typically leave because they simply didn’t realize what the work was going to be like, Williams said.

COVID protocols are still under way in the Jail. New detainees are quarantined for 10 days, and if during that time they test positive, they are quarantined an additional ten days.

At the close of Williams’s report, CAB member Hannah Royce asked a series of questions related to reproductive health in the Jail.

Currently period products are delivered to people who need them for free once a month, in two packs of twelve products. Additional products are available to purchase through the commissary. The Jail currently spends $1,000 per month on period products.

Detainees who are pregnant are kept on the medical floor or the mental health pod, depending on their condition.

Chairman Kris Steele asked Williams about the protection of dignity for detainees being booked into the jail, specifically referring to the new body scanner. Williams explained that a traditional strip search takes 15 minutes and is quite personal and intrusive. The body scanner is a low dose x-ray machine that shows density, not body features. Williams called the scanner process more humane and sanitary.

Subcommittees

In a previous meeting of the CAB, four subcommittees were established with the understanding that it would be possible for those committees to have members that aren’t part of the CAB.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the CAB had a lively discussion of the implications of that potential.

One member, Ryan Haynie, expressed concern that the CAB members had constituencies to answer to, whereas general members of the public added to a subcommittee would not.

In fact, the appointees to CAB don’t have constituencies. They are each appointed by a member of the Jail Trust, none of whom were elected to serve on the Trust save, potentially, the Sheriff and the one County Commissioner. However, even those roles are beholden to the entire county, not a voting bloc or territory.

Haynie’s concern was that non-CAB members having a vote in subcommittees could supplant the CAB, possibly even being able to reach quorum with no members of the CAB present for a meeting.

All votes of the CAB are simply recommendations, and not legally binding for the Jail Trust’s actions, nor the County Commissioners actions.

Pastor Derrick Scobey, who also serves on the CAB, expressed the desire for voices to be included that are typically not given a seat at the table. He echoed Steele’s comments that it would be ideal to have some detainees of the Jail participate in subcommittees, since those closest to the system would have the most insight into solutions.

Rev. Ray Douglas, another CAB member, suggested that the subcommittees be limited to 9 total possible members with the stipulation that CAB members should be the majority.

Scobey protested that a subcommittee chair could simply choose not to entertain any nominees from outside the CAB.

Douglas said that the CAB would have to “trust the integrity of the other members of this Board.” To which Scobey responded, “We don’t live in that world.”

“I know we don’t live in that world,” Douglas replied.

The CAB then voted to ratify Douglas’s suggestion of maintaining a majority of CAB members on each subcommittee.

Trust Vacancy

Since last month’s resignation of Joe Albaugh from his at-large seat on the Jail Trust, the seat has been vacant. At last week’s meeting of the County Commissioners, the BoCC requested recommendations from the CAB for nominations to fill that seat.

While the BoCC discussed the item for less than a minute, essentially only establishing that they would not be beholden to any recommendation from the CAB, the CAB itself discussed the item at length.

Royce asked if a member of the CAB could be a candidate for the Trust, and legal counsel said that wasn’t clear but it was likely not prohibited.

Pastor Scobey was mentioned as someone whose voice could be very helpful and constructive on the Trust.

Haynie expressed concern that the CAB hadn’t had time to explore the idea, having only learned of it this week. Steele pointed out that the request came with no deadline or instructions about what they should consider. The BoCC simply said that the CAB are a conscientious group who would make a sound recommendation. Steele offered to communicate with the COmmissioners to see if there was a timeline.

Haynie later said that if the BoCC couldn’t give them a month to make a recommendation, it wasn’t a serious request.

Albaugh’s resignation was tendered “effective immediately” on April 14, meaning the seat has been empty for nearly a full month already.

Royce asked if a recommendation was not made by the time of the next meeting of the Commissioners, would the recommendation be irrelevant? Steel agreed that the concern is valid.

Ultimately, member Steven Buck made a motion to direct Steele as Chair to establish with the Commissioners a deadline for the recommendation, in case a special meeting needed to be called in the interim.

That motion passed unanimously.

The CAB meets again on June 4 at 9:00 a.m., provided no special meeting is called before then.


Last Updated May 11, 2022, 9:02 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor