The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council (CJAC) released its latest report on population and COVID-19 conditions at the Oklahoma County Detention Center (Jail) Thursday.
Executive Director Timothy Taribono indicates the Jail is seeing an overall decrease in population trends.
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According to CJAC’s latest report, the numbers of positive cases among staff and inmates at the Jail has diminished to single digits in recent weeks. The press release touted more stringent testing at the jail.
However, previous reports from jail administration were that testing people who are incarcerated only happens when a detainee has a court appointment. Testing in the jail is not mandatory, and is not system-wide.
Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust) Trustee Francie Ekwerekwu has requested multiple times that testing be done at intake. So far, the administration of the Jail has been unable to make that happen.
One reason Tardibono cites for the low positive coronavirus case numbers in the Jail is Oklahoma City’s Penalty Reduction Program (PRP).
The PRP was launched in the summer of 2019. The program saw such success in its first year that the City Council of Oklahoma City voted to extend it through the summer of 2021.
The PRP targets court debts that are three years old or older. A person with an outstanding fine that old typically has a warrant out for them. Under this program that person may come to the Municipal Court and address their fines without arrest. They can receive as much as a 65% reduction in their fines and clear up their case. So far 2,323 cases have been closed through the program.
According to Tardibono, eliminating those warrants has helped keep people out of the Jail during the pandemic.
CJAC points to the downward trend in the jail population over the last year. In past years the jail has had a population of over 2,500 detainees. The average for the year 2020, according to CJAC, was 1624.
At the Jail Trust meeting Tuesday, CEO Greg Williams gave the current population as 1792.
The population fluctuates as detainees are bonded out or sentenced and remanded to Department of Corrections custody.
Transfers to DOC custody have been slow to complete over the past year, including an entire halt to transfers during the peak of COVID cases at the Jail in August, where cases reached 215. Since the transfers have started again, as many as forty detainees a week are sometimes transferred to the DOC.
Another factor contributing to the downward trend in Jail population is the Oklahoma City Police Department’s cite-and-release policy. By releasing arrestees in the field with an “Own Recognizance” or OR Bond, fewer people are booked into the jail.
CJAC welcomes a new member to their group this year. Newly elected Sheriff Tommie Johnson, III inherits a seat on the task force vacated by outgoing Sheriff P.D. Taylor.
CJAC meets on the third Thursday of every month, with no meeting in January of this year.
Chaired by Clay Bennett with Timothy Tardibono as executive director, the Criminal Justice Advisory Council (CJAC) is a task force made up of law enforcement from Oklahoma County municipalities, non-profit service providers, elected officials, judges, and business people.
The purpose of CJAC according to Tardibono, is to work toward a justice system that is more fair and effective, and wherein all are treated with dignity and respect, whether a victim of crime or a perpetrator of crime.
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