OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — In another long meeting of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust), the body heard some presentations but took very little action.
Jail CEO Greg Williams gave reports about incremental improvements on conditions in the jail.
The Trust also welcomed Pastor Theodis Manning to give a presentation on his nonprofit organization Teaching And Saving Kids (TASK).
The Trust also failed to take action on an item regarding the establishment of a new Citizens Advisory Board for the Trust
After a lengthy executive session, Trustee Joe Allbaugh surprised some by voting against retention of GableGotwals as outside counsel for the Trust in ongoing litigation.
Marty Peercy reports Local government
CEO of the Jail Trust, Greg Williams, gave his monthly report on operations of the Jail on Monday.
Monday’s report focused on health-care in the Detention Center.
In the previous month, two detainees have died in custody of the Jail. Williams explained that one of those two souls had spent over 100 days of his incarceration in hospital care. When the man died in the Jail, it was expected.
The other death, Williams said, he was unable to discuss as the Medical Examiner is still investigating.
Williams’s presentation included information about detainees at the Jail who are in need of medical care and medication.
Williams said that 1,200 people in the jail have a chronic health condition, and that over 700 have mental health conditions that have been prescribed medicine.
The population in the Detention Center on Monday was 1,649.
Trustee and District 3 County Commissioner Kevin Calvey pointed out that that is a much higher rate of illness than in the general population of the county.
Williams went on to address the troubling habit of “triple ceiling” in the Jail.
Triple celling is exactly what it sounds like: Three detainees are kept in one cell. Cells at the Jail were originally designed to hold one detainee.
Several years into operation of the jail, which opened in the early 1990s, the number of detainees had grown so much that the Sheriff’s Office added bunks to each cell.
In the intervening years, incarceration has increased by such factors, that detainees are frequently forced to sleep on “boats” or “sleds.” Those are placed on the floor of the cells.
Williams said that the goal is to eliminate triple celling. At the beginning of the year, there were 197 people being kept in cells with two other detainees. At present, Williams said, that number has been reduced to 30 people, which is clearly an improvement.
Williams also touted that COVID numbers are lower in the Jail today than they were in December, no mean feat when the deadly disease has been surging through the population of our state.
Testing for COVID happens when a detainee is headed to court, prioritized for transfer to the Department of Corrections, or when requested, he explained.
Williams said the cost of testing per month is approximately $8,000.
Calvey asked how many other counties employ the practice of testing everybody due in court from their jails. Williams stated that Oklahoma County is the only one he knows to have the practice.
Calvey then said, simply, “That’s quite a cost.”
Williams finished his presentation by describing the response to the recent winter storm. The Jail administration and staff were well-prepared, he said. No significant problems arose during the storm, a departure from last February’s terrible winter storm, when water was not available in the Jail for a time.
Williams indicated that over the weekend, there was a large influx of people experiencing homelessness being brought to the Jail. He said that the Jail was able to process people through quickly and that staff gave everybody a sack lunch. Many staff members bought sodas out of their own money for people while they awaited a ride to an appropriate shelter.
No reasons were given as to why the influx of homeless detainees happened.
An item on Monday’s agenda included discussion and possible action about empaneling a Citizens Advisory Board.
The application process to join the board has not been publicized, but at least one member of the audience of Monday’s meeting, Christopher Johnston, said that he had applied, and hoped that critical thinkers like him would be included.
When the item came up for consideration, Couch addressed the Trustees and asked them to get their appointees turned in as soon as possible.
No other discussion was had.
Pastor Theodis Manning, a member of the Central Oklahoma Criminal Justice Advisory Council (CJAC) was invited to the Trust meeting to deliver a presentation of his organization Teaching And Saving Kids (TASK).
The Pastor explained the many functions of the organization, with a spotlight on efforts to reach people in prisons, and to assist with re-entry after leaving prison.
Manning described a program of the organization that he would like to implement with in the County Jail.
The program would include iPad visits with TASK mentors and advocates, allowing instant communication with persons who have been inside of jails and prisons, offering feedback and encouragement.
The Trustees showed enthusiasm for the program.
After the Trust recessed to executive session for over an hour, then returned to open session, chairman Jim Couch asked for a motion on one of two voting items.
Both voting items involved the approval of GableGotwals, a large law firm with offices in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, as private counsel for the Trust.
GableGotwals has been representing the Trust, who already has counsel in the person of John Michael Williams from the firm of Williams, Box, Forshee, & Bullard. In civil litigation, however, the Trust has consistently hired GableGotwals.
During the vote on each item, Joe Allbaugh, one of the three newest members of the Trust voted “No” on each item.
No discussion happened in open session, so it remains to be seen what Allbaugh’s objections to the firm might be.
The Jail Trust will meet again on March 7 at 1:00 p.m.
Last Updated February 7, 2022, 8:32 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor