OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — On Thursday afternoon, the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust) held a special meeting to discuss recent events and deaths in the jail. A report on current staffing and operations at the Jail was given by CEO Greg Williams.
The Trust accepted a damning letter from the State Department of Health identifying 26 deficiencies. The Trust also accepted a Letter of Defect from Turn Key Health, the contract healthcare provider at the County Jail.
The Trust went on to agree to accept temporary staffing assistance from the Department of Corrections.
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The Trust gaveled in at 3:00 p.m. and within 3 minutes recessed to Executive Session. The purpose of their Executive Session was primarily to discuss the potential sanctioning of Jail CEO Greg Williams.
On Saturday, March 27, a person detained on the 10th floor of the Jail allegedly took a Detention Officer hostage. The detainee and others in neighboring cells were seen live in a Facebook video cataloging and decrying what they described as inhumane conditions in the Jail.
There has been much outcry from the community about the conditions of the Jail and it’s understaffing since.
During the Executive Session, the Trust discussed Mr. Williams’s employment, as well as discussing other deaths in the Jail, of which there have been nine since the Trust took over the facility last summer.
After an hour and a half, the Trustees returned to open session and voted simply to “proceed as discussed” in the Executive Session.
CEO Greg Williams gave his regular report on staffing and operations. As always, staffing is critically low. Williams said the Jail currently has 330 full-time employees. Since the 10% pay increase employees have received two paychecks reflecting the bump.
There will be some job fairs held soon to try to increase recruitment.
Since last Saturday’s incident, Williams said that the Jail has been receiving many angry calls, as well as having several protests outside the Jail.
Red Rock, a local mental health care provider, has been working with Williams to offer services to staff and detainees who experienced trauma from the event. They also have a peer support program.
Williams said that contraband searches have been increasing. When asked what kind of contraband is being searched for, he said that they don’t know what kind of contraband is there until it’s found, but they mostly search for cell phones, drugs, and tobacco.
Trustee Sue Ann Arnall strongly recommended that searches focus on finding things that are actually a danger to staff and detainees.
Trustee Francie Ekwerekwu asked how often welfare checks are being done. Williams said that they are required hourly in each pod. Ekwerekwu asked if he had adequate staff to do that and keep up with the food schedule and exercise schedule.
“No,” Williams answered.
Today’s Jail Population was 1542 with 102 scheduled for transport to the Department of Corrections.
The Department of Corrections will temporarily assist the Jail to relieve staffing shortfalls.
Ekwerekwu and Sheriff Tommie Johnson, III both expressed concern that the aid seemed to be coming to them as a contract with no details.
The agreement doesn’t include the number of staff that will be coming to assist, nor what cost the agreement will have. According to Greg Williams, he expects an additional 68 staff members to come from DOC.
Williams, Trust Chair Tricia Everest, and Trust Counsel John Michael Williams all assured the other Trustees that this will come at no cost to the Trust. Trustees were told that the Jail received similar assistance from the DOC last year and that it came at no cost.
The agreement passed with affirmative votes from all Trustees except Ekwerekwu and Johnson who abstained.
The Trust received and accepted an annual report from the State Department of Health and an accompanying Letter of Non-Compliance.
In the 39 page document, 26 deficiencies in the Jail are identified as non-compliant with health and safety standards. These include liquid human waste that was left uncleaned until it solidified. The report also says that black mold and mildew were found in almost every shower in the building.
Williams stated that he’s never received a report of that sort, and had requested the previous three or four responses so that he would know how to address the issue formally.
Informally, he said that he has barely had time to look at the report that was dated March 30. He said that he and his team would be looking at it in the coming days to see what needed to be done to ameliorate some of the issues.
Letter of Defect
The Trust also formally accepted a Letter of Defect from Turn Key Health, the for-profit company contracted for healthcare services at the Jail.
According to the letter dated March 29, staffing levels at the Jail are in violation of the contract between the Trust and Turn Key.
With low staffing levels passing medications has become difficult to do. Furthermore, low staffing levels have created a safety issue for Turn Key employees at the Jail.
The letter says that Turn Key will give the Trust until April 29, 2021, to raise staffing to an adequate level, or they will negate their contract.
The Jail Trust is scheduled to meet again on April 19 at 1:00 p.m. and the Detention Center Action Committee is scheduled to meet Monday, April 5 at 1:00 p.m. However, there is an item on the agenda of the Board of County Commissioners meeting concerning the possible dissolution of the Trust.
Last Updated April 1, 2021, 9:32 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor