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In a quick meeting of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust), the Trust heard public comment for a time, and accepted CARES money from the Board of County Commissioners.

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Public Comment

Before hearing a controversial item regarding $6 million in CARES Act funding, The Trust’s Chairperson, Tricia Everest, addressed the crowd saying that she was aware that many wanted to comment on this agenda item. She moved the item to the end of the agenda in order to facilitate people signing up to speak.

Everest went on, late in the meeting, to table the remaining items so that there would be ample time to accommodate public comment before the next meeting scheduled in the room.

Seventeen participants signed up to speak, but only five were able to address the Trust. The common thread of the comments was that people of Oklahoma County are suffering and that CARES money should be used to aid residents, not to be parked at the jail with no plans for its use.

Jail Trust
Activists clap for one of their own as they make a point in public comments at the Oklahoma County Jail Trust 8-24-20. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

As the meeting was drawing close to its deadline, Everest asked for a motion on the item. The crowd booed and chanted “let them speak,” while the vote commenced and passed. As the Trust then moved to adjourn, the crowd chanted, “Shut it down.”

The meeting adjourned with no further incident and the crowd of protestors moved to the sidewalk in front of the Courthouse Annex as the County Budget Board took over the room.

COVID Relief

The Trust did ultimately vote in favor of accepting an allocation of $6 million for “hero pay” for jail employees as well as money meant for the updating of some plumbing and air handling systems in the jail intended to make the jail more “COVID-proof.”

Additionally the Trust voted to allow Chief Executive Officer Greg Williams or Everest to enter into agreements with agencies such as the Department of Corrections to assist in reaching an appropriate staffing level for the jail. The jail will expect DoC staff to help in staffing the jail through the rest of the year. The agenda item also made reference to “engaging qualified persons and firms as independent contractors.”

A representative of Turnkey Health, the firm that handles medical care in the jail, gave a report on coronavirus numbers in the Jail. Currently there are 231 cases including two inmate deaths. The jail has changed lab testing companies for tests from the jail in order to have a faster turnaround.

Several weeks ago testing of pre-trial individuals showed a percentage of asymptomatic positive tests of 38%. In the weeks since that rate has dropped significantly to under 10%.

The jail prioritizes testing for those with upcoming court appearances, as well as anybody who is symptomatic.

Previously we have heard that prioritization of testing is for people scheduled to be taken into DoC custody and transferred to prison. There have been hundreds waiting at the jail to begin prison sentences since the beginning of the outbreak.

The Jail Trust will meet again on August 31 at 1:00 p.m.


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