Officials: Canadian County in need of new jail

Thursday, May 29th 2008, 7:30 pm
By: News 9

By Jennifer Pierce, NEWS 9

EL RENO, Okla. -- A local sheriff is picking and choosing who he locks up.

The Canadian County jail is often over capacity. And county voters recently turned down plans for a new jail.

"Five and a half, six years I've been preaching that they have to replace this jail," Canadian County Sheriff Lewis Hawkins said.

That's because every time the state jail inspector comes around, Sheriff Hawkins wonders if he'll be shut down.

"I got wrote up the last time the jail inspector was here for water on the floor," Hawkins said.

Besides standing water, rusted pipes and old wiring the jail is often over the 72 bed limit. Sheriff Hawkins has to make tough decisions on the people he locks up.

"I call it exercising the Wisdom of Solomon," Hawkins said.

So instead of taking thieves and misdemeanor crimes he focuses on the worst of the worst.

"If you're going to take care of the citizens out here, at large, you're going to put the Billy Bad Boys in jail," Hawkins said.

Lack of jail space also makes it hard for Sheriff Hawkins to serve the over 14,000 outstanding warrants.

"We have to figure out some way to have a jail," Canadian County Commissioner Phil Carson said.

But the $22 million jail was recently turned down by voters.

"I think they were pretty much uninformed about how bad the situation ours is in, for one thing, and I think the economic times have something to do with it," Carson said.

So now county officials are going back to the drawing board in hopes the public will give a new jail another chance, and jail inspectors will give Hawkins more time.

"I look for him to at least give us one more opportunity," Hawkins said.

County officials want to put this up for another vote, but have to wait until November.