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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — In what may be a sign of tightening standards at the Oklahoma County Detention Center (OCDC) or Jail, three detention officers were fired, all in the last week of 2021. The news media were made aware of the firings at the time.

Firings in the Jail’s past have generally not been announced if it was only for policy reasons and did not involve an arrest.

According to Mark Opgrande with the OCDC the following were fired during of the week between Christmas and New Years of 2021:

  • Jesse Knight was fired December 27 for failing to do assigned site checks on a detainee, Gabriel Yalartai, who is suspected to have died by suicide during the time when Knight was supposed to have been checking the welfare of Yalartai.
  • Reagan Widener was fired December 28 after a special investigations team found her in possession of a cell phone inside the Jail, which is prohibited. “The Special Investigative Unit was conducting employee searches as part of ongoing efforts to prevent contraband coming into the jail. During the search, officers discovered Widener with an unauthorized cell phone. During an interview, she admitted to previously bringing in tobacco and delivering packages of unknown drugs to an inmate, for which the officer received $2,000. Investigators also searched the officer’s vehicle and found 4.5 grams of marijuana, a loaded .380 handgun and a digital scale,” said a news release from the Jail. Widener was “booked into the jail on charges of distribution of controlled substance; possession with intent to distribute; use of a firearm while committing a felony; and carrying a weapon, drugs or alcohol into jail.” An affidavit of probable cause has been filed with the courts.
  • Emma Yandel was fired December 30 and placed under arrest by the Oklahoma City Police Department. Jail administration gave the following narrative in a news release: “Detention Officer Emma Yandel violated policy by bringing in a cell phone into the Oklahoma County Detention Center. The device was discovered during a random employee search designed to stem the flow of contraband into the jail. Yandel consented to a search of her cell phone, and investigators discovered pictures and videos they felt required further investigation. The Oklahoma City Police Department was notified, and the employee was terminated immediately for violating policy.”

Resolve

Once the Jail was turned over to the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority or Jail Trust, Greg Williams became the CEO of the Jail.

After several incidents of contraband cell phones recording various videos of activities inside of cells as well as of a hostage situation in March 2021 has prompted more vigilance and statements by Williams meant to send a message that contraband being brought into the jail, especially by detention officers and staff, would not be tolerated.

Greg Williams
Greg Williams, CEO of the Jail Trust and the Oklahoma County Detention Center, answers questions during a news conference in March 2021. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

“We will continue to be proactive and vigilant in our efforts to keep contraband out of the jail,” said Williams. “We will not tolerate any employee, contract worker or visitor who violates policy or laws which were put in place to protect detainees and our employees.”

And, after the Widener arrest, Williams was just as adamant about holding detention officers accountable.

“We cannot stress enough how important it is for the safety of detainees and our staff to stop the flow of contraband into the jail. Sadly, a very small number of our employees deliver contraband, and we are making every effort to find and prosecute these people,” said Williams. “We will continue to be proactive and vigilant. Any employee, contract worker or visitor attempting to bring in contraband will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law, period.”


Last Updated January 9, 2022, 3:41 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor