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Oklahoma Co. Could Face Federal Lawsuit Over Conditions At Jail

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OK Co. could face lawsuit over jail conditions. OK Co. could face lawsuit over jail conditions.
OKLAHOMA CITY -

The US Department of Justice is considering suing Oklahoma County over conditions at the county jail. According to Commissioner Ray Vaughn the lawsuit would center around allegations conditions at the jail are a violation of the prisoners' 8th amendment rights.

Back in 2009 the Department of Justice issued a Memorandum of Understanding laying out 60 problems for the county to fix at the jail. County Commissioner Ray Vaughn said the sheriff took care of all but four of those issues. Those that still need to be taken care of include such things as windows don't provide enough ambient light, the building needs to be converted to allow for direct supervision of inmates, all the cell doors need to be changed and inmates need to be allowed out of their cells for recreation. County Commissioner Ray Vaughn said the county simply can't fix those things because it costs too much.

“We don't have the funding to do that and if we did I wouldn't want to spend it on that facility because it would be putting good money into a bad facility,” said Commissioner Vaughn.

However, the MOU said if the county doesn't make the necessary changes the DOJ will pursue litigation. Commissioner Vaughn said the county has been notified they are moving forward with litigation. Federal prosecutors would ask a judge to step in and demand the county make the changes.

“So basically it would be the closing of the Oklahoma County Jail on the horizon if we can't fix it,” said Commissioner Vaughn.

But with roughly 2,400 inmates, that is not a solution.

“The solution is a new facility,” said Vaughn.

Vaughn said as early as this fall voters may be asked to approve a half-cent sales tax increase for 15 years to pay for a new jail.

“We know what to do, we just need the resources to do it with.”

Commissioner Vaughn said commissioners will likely vote by the end of the month on whether to put the sales tax increase on the ballot. The sales tax increase would also pay for operation funding for mental health treatment at the new jail.

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