An Oklahoma County commissioner wrote to the county’s Criminal Justice Authority, also called the Jail Trust, requesting an improvement plan after several in-custody deaths.
“It felt like the right time to start putting some pressure on them,” said Carrie Blumert, district one commissioner.
The trust took over operations of the Oklahoma County Detention Center in July. Since then, ten inmates have died from natural causes, suicide, COVID-19 and one was fatally shot by police after taking a corrections officer hostage.
“It is past time that the Criminal Justice Authority outline a concrete action plan to keep people alive and safe,” Blumert wrote in the letter sent last week.
Blumert asked for plans addressing four topics:
-An increase in staffing to ensure the safety of detainees and staff
-An increase in detainees’ timely access to showers, food, medication, and recreation time
-A decrease in contraband being brought into the facility
-Increased retention of current employees
“I think it would be helpful for the families of detainees being held in there,” Blumert said. “I think it would be helpful to see the jail trusts’ plan to address these issues.”
Jail Trust Chair Tricia Everest told News 9 the trust is preparing plans, some of which could be released this week.
In a presentation to the trust, Jail Administrator Greg Williams, said Wednesday they are expecting more corrections officers to begin work later this month. They are also holding open interviews at the detention center, he said.
Williams said pressurized hot water is back on in most of the jail after repairs to the facility’s water main. He said the trust inherited broken pipes in July.
Trustees raised concerns about bed bugs throughout the facility. Williams said his staff is actively exploring ways of killing the bugs, including the use of extreme heat.
Although staffing, cleanliness, and safety have been among the chief issues for the trust since they took over operations of the detention center, Blumert said long-term plans for repairs and future funding are necessary.
“I would love to see something public that we could hold them accountable to,” she said.