5 minute read

The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority, or Jail Trust, met on July 29 to receive reports and address the financial needs of the Authority.

Features of the meeting were an involved set of presentations from the Sheriff’s office and more citizens speaking out against the presence of Immigration Enforcement and Customs (ICE) agents stationed at the Oklahoma County Jail.

Standing Room Only

As with last week the gallery was significantly more full than usual. By one unofficial count there were at least 9 uniformed sheriff’s deputies in the room in addition to plain clothes staff.

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The meeting began with a roll call vote. Former City Manager Jim Couch was not seated at the beginning. Jane Lerum sat in as alternate for Commissioner Calvey.

Today’s agenda had changes in language referring to public comment. The trust allowed the public to sign up to speak during discussion of each agenda item instead of solely at the end of the meeting. Comments remained limited to five minutes, which is a very long time in a public meeting. Perhaps that will be another change in the near future.

Here are the items that were heard:

  • Minutes from 7/22/19 were approved without fanfare or discussion
  • Trustees Ekwerekwu and Lamb were invited to report on any participation with the Sheriff’s Bid Evaluation Team. Ekwerekwu attended a meeting of the team and said that the team is assessing bids on records management.
  • Trust Chair Everest reported on plans for next week’s Trustee Planning Session including location, facilitator, and meeting topics. She invited John Michael WIlliams to explain that next week’s meeting will be a public meeting, but that it will not be a public hearing. That means that the public can attend but will not have the opportunity to provide comment.
  • Trust Chair Everest reported on the requested Independent Financial Reportfor the Jail, which will go ahead as planned once the Trust secures funding.
  • For the first time in the Trust’s existence, the Trustees voted to request that the Board of County Commissioners and County Budget Board for money. The Trust voted unanimously to request initial funding in the amount of $100,000 for expenses related to the Trustee Planning Session, the requested Independent Financial Report on the County Jail, legal services, consulting services for a plan for operation of the County Jail, and other expenses necessary to fulfill the purposes of the Trust.
  • Finally Sheriff Taylor brought on Jail Administrators, Captains Bailey and Sedbrook. Sedbrook invited a number of Captains and other members of the Law Enforcement personnel from the department to speak about their responsibilities at the jail. Notable was the Special Investigations Division, who handle investigation of incidents inside the jail including assaults between those incarcerated there and assaults on staff. Sedbrook stated that the current count at the Jail is 1674, with 71 triple-celled, and 462 currently prescribed mental health medications. He also said that there are 380 full time employees at the jail.

Public Comments

With the new format for public comment adopted this week allowing members of the public to speak on specific agenda items, several took advantage to address multiple concerns. Jess Eddy took the opportunity to speak during several agenda items.

After hearing about the Bid Evaluation Team, Eddy addressed the Trust and stated that the community he represents is absolutely opposed to the privatization of core services at the County Jail. He also remarked on the current contract with Turnkey Health and suggested that said contract be revisited.

Eddy came to the podium again to request that at the upcoming Trustee Planning Session the Trust consider empaneling an ad hoc subcommittee with members representing communities that have been traditionally marginalized.

Eddy returned to ask if using money to fund an Independant Financial Report and legal services was wise when the County Treasurer and District Attorney’s offices could provide those services. Everest vowed that they would be responsible with public money.

Following the Sheriff’s Department report Sarah Bana addressed the Trust. She explained that jailing juvenile offenders drastically slows brain development, and referred to the practice as child abuse.

ICE Discussion

For a second week in a row the gallery was full of people. Most of the people who signed up to speak during the final public comment time spoke concerning ICE. Many of those comments were specifically about the presence of two ICE agents at the County Jail. Some were just about ICE, to be honest.

My count of speakers at this week’s meeting tallied eight speakers who were ardently opposed to ICE’s activities in the Jail and the broader community. Five residents came to offer their full throated support for ICE.

I highly recommend writing down what you want to say before you address a public meeting. It’s much easier to communicate if you don’t spend your five minutes trying to remember the point you wanted to get around to.

One moment of amusement during the meeting was when an ICE supporter urged the Trust to “keep ISIS in the County Jail. I mean ICE!” ICE opposers and supporters alike seemed to get a good chuckle, demonstrating that we are all on the same side. The side of laughter.
Just kidding. These people are not on the same side.

Future Meetings

The August 5th meeting will be for creating a Plan of Action, and so will not be a typical meeting.

One wonders if the line-up of public commenters on the topic of ICE will go on with every future regular meeting of the Trust. The comments will certainly be more relevant once the Trust takes over operation of the Jail. For now, again, only one person empaneled on that body makes the choice to cooperate or not cooperate with ICE, and that is the Sheriff.



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