New Oklahoma County Jail Contemplated

Friday, January 6th 2012, 5:32 pm
By: News 9

Oklahoma County officials are considering several options for a new, multi-million dollar county jail. One could mean combining inmates from another county to form a regional jail.

The federal government has been keeping a close eye on the Oklahoma County jail since 2008, when it was found to be deficient in 60 areas.

Oklahoma County District Three Commissioner Ray Vaughn said some of the deficiencies have to do with the design of the building, "Things of that nature we cannot fix without a new facility."

Commissioner Vaughn is in favor of building a new, one-story jail. The location he has in mind is not in downtown Oklahoma City, but near Canadian County. Vaughn said Canadian County is in dire need of a new facility.

The other idea is to remodel the existing jail downtown. Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel said he wants whatever is most cost effective for taxpayers.

Sheriff Whetsel does see one drawback to a regional jail. He is concerned expenses related to transporting inmates to the county courthouse could rise. Right now, the two buildings are only blocks apart. A new jail would mean a longer ride, miles away.

Bail bondsmen located within walking distance from the jail are not in favor of building a new jail near Canadian County.

The owner of Jerry Dowell Bail Bonding said inmates' friends and family members can walk across the street to his business anytime of the day.

"Being further away would affect my business," said Dowell.

The county has until 2015 to come up with an official jail plan, but officials don't want to wait that long. Commissioner Vaughn said it will require a bond issue vote, which could happen as soon as early next year.