Jail Cells Grow Frigid Without Heat At Oklahoma County Jail
OKLAHOMA CITY - Inmates at the Oklahoma County jail are speaking out about the broken heating system throughout the building.
The lobby of the jail was very warm Saturday, but those recently released from the jail said their cells felt as cold as the winter air outside.
The sheriff’s office has maintenance crews working through the weekend to fix the problem, but in the meantime, inmates said they are getting sick.
“You’re wrapped in a sheet and a blanket and you’re still cold because the air coming out is blowing pretty strong,” Jackie Berry said.
The problem is not a new one. In the summertime, News 9 received complaints of no air conditioning at the jail, but right now, inmates feel their cells are better described as refrigerators.
“You get toilet paper wet and throw it on the vents to cover the air because it blows cold air out,” said Mychelle Greene.
Earlier this year, the Vera Institute of Justice released part one of a study on the jail, aiming to delay a federal takeover of the facility. It shows the most glaring problems are overcrowding, “counterproductive” fines on inmates and case delays due to employee turnover and budget cuts.
Sheriff John Whetsel said that lack of funding is also keeping him from making some much-needed repairs.
Inmates argue the priority should be on temperature control, saying they even see the jail staff bundled up as they make their rounds.
“She had a hood on and her jacket zipped up … gloves on,” Greene said, describing one staff member. “You’d think she was walking through a blizzard. She’s handing out meds. I’m like at least she’s got that option.”
The Vera Institute is expected to release phase two of the continuing study of the jail in the coming months. The second report will include new recommendations for improvements at the facility.