In their final meeting of the year, the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust, as it is more commonly known) approved a contract for detainee phone services. They also heard reports from CEO Greg Williams about operations of the Jail and the current COVID situation.
Trustees M.T. Berry, Ben Brown, Kevin Calvey, and Todd Lamb were all absent from the proceedings.
The phones used by people incarcerated in the Oklahoma County Detention Center have been up for a new contract since the beginning of the new fiscal year in July. In Monday’s meeting, the Jail Trust finally approved a long-term contract with Global Tel*Link, also known as Telmate. The contract will drop the cost per minute charged to the people who make calls, as well as bring better management of the telephone system.
Trustee Francie Ekwerekwu raised a concern long held by the Public Defenders Office about calls being monitored and recorded. There are several agencies outside of the Jail that are currently able to monitor phone calls made by those incarcerated.
Trustee Sue Ann Arnall agreed that monitoring calls is a problem. She expressed that she doesn’t believe the Jail should be recording any calls, calling the practice an invasion of privacy.
“Those calls are paid for by the family members of the people in jail. Those are private,” Arnall said.
The vendor was present at the meeting and was able to answer questions. He explained that as soon as the contract is recognized, the company can perform an audit of the services and revoke listening privileges to any parties the Trust chooses.
The Trust approved the contract unanimously with a 5-0 vote.
Covid and Operations
Jail Trust CEO Greg Williams gave a report on COVID in the Jail. He said that since taking over in July, Jail staff have tested over 4,000 people with over 300 positive cases. In the last two weeks, only one positive case has been found. Two people with COVID have died in hospital while under Jail custody this year.
Ekwerekwu asked if masks are mandated among Jail staff. Williams said that they are. He said that they have a disciplinary plan for staff who are reported for not wearing masks, but so far no disciplinary action has been taken. Furthermore, Williams pointed out, outside vendors and all other visitors to the Jail are required to wear masks.
Williams also addressed the current state of operations in the Jail. He explained that staffing levels are not optimal, and that recruiting suitable applicants has remained a challenge, though he is happy with the staff that have been added.
Booking and discharge remain difficult positions to staff in the Jail, as those positions require more training than other positions. Additionally, video-conferencing has been in high demand since the outbreak of COVID. Keeping appropriate levels for staffing remote visits has been a challenge.
There was a death at the Jail on Sunday. The death is still being investigated.
Local activist Jess Eddy addressed the Trust during this item. He said that the press release about the death in the Jail made reference to the type of charges the person was being held for. Eddy said that including those details eroded the presumption of innocence.
Arnall agreed with Eddy. She stated that in the future she would prefer that details like that not be included in communications from the Jail to the Press.
Honeycutt says goodbye
Danny Honeycutt, General Counsel for outgoing Oklahoma County Sheriff P.D. Taylor, attended his last Jail Trust meeting.
He said it had been a pleasure to serve on the Trust with his fellow Trustees. The Trustees each took an opportunity to thank Honeycutt for his hard work and dedication over the last year and a half.
Two members of the public, Jess Eddy and Christopher Johnston, also took the opportunity to thank Honeycutt for his work to bridge the gap between the public and law enforcement.
The Trust will meet again on January 4.
Last Updated December 21, 2020, 7:31 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor