On New Year’s Day, local community organizers held a demonstration at the Oklahoma County Jail to protest what they said are inhumane conditions the jail and ICE’s presence there.
"It's important for us to have things out here. It's just as important to take care of the people that are behind the walls too" said Oklahoma rapper, Jabee Williams.
Demonstrators gathered across the street from Oklahoma County Jail to draw attention to mass incarceration and to show solidarity with those locked inside.
"You can ask anyone in Oklahoma County if they have known someone that has been incarcerated or booked here at Oklahoma County Jail, and almost everyone has a story of hurt and harm that’s been done to their family, or themselves, or their human dignity being taken away," said Serena Prammanasudh, Executive Director at Dream Act OK.
The protestors argue that the jail's conditions are inhumane. people who have spent time inside the jail backed this statement
"I went to jail one time, and I promised to God that I would never go back because of how it was. it changed my life," said Williams.
Another issue at the forefront: the presence of ICE at the Jail.
In response, Oklahoma County Sheriff’s office spokesperson, Mark Myers says, "We recently received an opinion from the Oklahoma county district attorney's office supporting our current process of working with ice."
Demonstrators are also asking that there be more financial transparency. "The funding of this jail is definitely something that needs revision and needs more community input" Prammanasudh said.
To that point, the sheriff's office said that it hopes a designated funding source will be secured to “help improve the current jail or build a new detention facility.”
Read full statement below:
Criminal justice reform has been a priority not only in Oklahoma County, but throughout the state as well. The Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office has actively worked with business leaders, judges, the public defender’s office, the district attorney's office, local law enforcement agencies, and Oklahoma County elected officials on procedures reducing inmate population at the jail. We continue working with the Oklahoma County Jail Trust to transition the detention center to their operation. We look forward to the transition, and hope a designated funding source will be secured to help improve the current jail or build a new detention facility.
Sheriff PD Taylor has implemented several new programs improving safety, and mental health treatments for inmates held at the jail. Jail deaths have decreased significantly under Sheriff Taylor's leadership as a result of addressing inmate safety issues.
Regarding ICE, we recently received an opinion from the Oklahoma County District Attorney's Office supporting our current process of working with ICE keeping the safety of our county a priority while also reducing financial liability to the county by allowing ICE in the jail. ICE has made minor procedural changes for taking inmates who have illegally entered into the United States from the jail into their custody and we continue working with the agency.