OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — An eastside Oklahoma City legislator has requested in writing that U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland “intercede” in the operation of the Oklahoma County Detention Center (Jail).
Representative Jason Lowe, D-OKC, HD-97, described the Jail as creating “horrendous conditions” for those held there. He wrote that the Jail is “unihabitable and in need of reform.”
“Inmates are subject to mold, bed bugs, and a lack of access to medical care and basic health and hygiene needs,” Lowe’s letter reads. “These are civil rights violations that require the attention of the US Attorney General.”
His letter also cites ten detainee deaths since the Jail Trust took over the operation of the Jail from the Oklahoma County Sheriff. That transfer of operators took place July 1, 2020.
“Most recently, four detention officers have been charged with assault and battery for incidents involving inmates, and a detention officer was held hostage by inmates in protest of their living conditions, which resulted in an inmate being shot and killed by Oklahoma City police officers,” Lowe stated in the letter.
The recent hostage situation at the Jail was also cited in the letter. One detainee was shot and killed by two Oklahoma City Police officers who were sent in to rescue a detention officer who had been take hostage.
Lowe wrote, “Oklahoma County’s inmate population deserves better. Our detention officers deserve better. Our community
He blames “political strife among the jail’s stakeholders” as the key problem that “will persist indefinitely until someone intercedes.”
The Jail Trust concept was resisted actively by then-Sheriff P.D. Taylor as he came into sharp disagreement with Oklahoma County Commissioner Kevin Calvey who was the most vocal proponent of the trust idea. Then, late in 2019, Taylor put a deadline on the Trust to take over in the early spring of 2020 but agreed to stay onboard until July 1 of 2020.
Lowe represents one of two majority-minority districts in the OKC metro and is a criminal defense attorney which takes him into the Jail often.
He also says that state incarceration facilities “are underfunded as well.”
The Jail has officially operated under U.S. Justice Department supervision for over a decade beginning well before the Jail Trust took over the operation of the Jail. The original reasons for the supervision MOU were poor conditions, poor medical care, and poor supervision.
Lowe, and members of the Legislative Black Caucus are scheduled to hold a press conference at the Oklahoma State Capitol on Monday, April 19 at 1 p.m.
Sustain our journalism by becoming a supporter
Oklahoma City Free Press is dedicated to providing high quality journalism that positively impacts our community. Click this linkto support our mission.
Last Updated April 18, 2021, 11:22 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor