Oklahoma's Own In Focus: Where Could New Oklahoma County Jail Be Located?

There are several locations on the table for a new Oklahoma County Jail. The possible and failed sites are broken down in Oklahoma's Own In Focus.

Tuesday, January 9th 2024, 3:37 pm

By: News 9


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The debate continues over where to build a new jail in Oklahoma County.

Oklahoma County began accepting bids for a new jail site one year ago.

Several locations have been added to and taken off the list.

Possible Jail Locations

Near OKC Stockyards

Oklahoma County Commissioners met behind closed doors a month ago, on December 4, to discuss possible new jail sites. The list included the original four locations they were considering, along with other properties near the city’s stockyards.

Several people had something to say about the stockyard's location during the December 4 meeting.

“If you don't want it in your backyard, then we absolutely do not want it in ours,” said Kevin Maxwell a resident from northeast Oklahoma City. 

That land is made up of several properties owned by different people.

Also part of the proposed jail site, one section of the land is owned by Stockyard City 

Oklahoma National Stockyards President Jerry Reynolds told News 9 that the area in question - an undeveloped piece of land directly west of the stockyards and bordered by South May Avenue - is "critical to ongoing operations."Oklahoma County Commissioner Myles Davidson, who represents District 3, said that piece of land would be combined with the land directly south of the stockyards to create a site for a new jail. The land directly south of the stockyards is bordered by Exchange Avenue to the north, South May Avenue to the west, Southwest 15th Street to the south, and the railroad tracks to the east. 

Davidson said the area is viable for a new jail because it is relatively close to the courthouse. He also said the land is unincorporated, which means the county does not have to ask Oklahoma City for zoning and does not have to pay the city for permitting.

But Commissioner Brian Maughan, who represents District 2, said the land directly south of the stockyards is occupied by several property owners. He said the ones he talked with have no interest in selling their land.

"So if that continues to be the case, the only way that site location would work is to explore eminent domain, it seems to me. And that's not something I'm comfortable with pursuing, personally," said Maughan. "I think that it's an extraordinary measure for government to go and take away people's land and businesses. It has to be for a really, really, really unique reason."

However, Davidson said it's too premature to rule the area out.

"We don't even know what the land's worth. We don't even know what we're willing to offer them yet," said Davidson. "What they think it's worth and what we offer them may be markedly different to the point where they're thinking, 'Hey, thank you for giving us this money so we can get out.'"

Davidson said when the new jail is built, it will not look like a detention center from the outside. Rather, he envisions that it will resemble a modern building, like a library, and could help revitalize the surrounding area.

"I would just tell you to look at the current jail - the economic development, the real estate development, Jones Assembly, 21c Hotel, five-star restaurants - all of that has happened around the jail," said Davidson.

Meanwhile, Maughan said he's hopeful that one of the 10 other locations proposed by Oklahoma City would be viable for a new jail. He said he has been looking for additional sites as well.

"I just think that most of the problems that we have remaining in the existing site are directly tied to the fact that it's a high-rise 13-story tower jail. So I want us to go to a one-level jail. That's one reason we need so much land," said Maughan.

Southeast 29th and the Kickapoo Turnpike, in Harrah

Still on the list to our knowledge.

Failed Locations

Near Will Rogers World Airport

Oklahoma County commissioners made an official offer to purchase land for a new county jail, in October 2023.

The commissioners made the offer to buy more than 51 acres of land between Newcastle Road and Southwest 54th Street near Will Rogers World Airport.

The offer includes a clause, requesting the city rezone the area for jail and criminal justice uses.

However, The FAA said the detention center would impact flight operations and federal grants.

The airport trust officially took this property off the table.

Northeast 150th and Peebly Road in Luther

This was recently taken off the list. 

Southeast 22nd and Grand

Another option was near Southeast 22nd and Grand, but the Mid-Del Public Schools Superintendent said this does not leave him feeling well.

"When you think about inmates being released from the county jail and walking out the front door, not having anywhere to go, and you have our schools and our students right across the field, it just makes me uncomfortable," said Dr. Rick Cobb Mid-Del Public Schools Superintendent.

This location was removed from the list.

Why a new jail?

This push for a new jail in Oklahoma County comes on the heels of a scathing report from a multi-county grand jury about the current detention center.

The report, released in March, cited problems such as inmate deaths, drugs in the jail, and unsafe facilities at the 13-story building.

Two months later, Brandi Garner was appointed jail CEO.

Here's what she told us back in May when she vowed to make changes.

Looking ahead to the new jail, Commissioners have approved a design firm and a construction manager.

What a new jail could offer

The new jail will include a mental health and diversion center, paid for with ARPA money. That money has to be allocated by the end of this year, and the mental health center has to be finished by December 2026. The jail itself is not linked to those federal deadlines; voters approved a bond in 2022 to fund it. In September 2023, county officials went to Wichita Falls to get some ideas from the city's two-year-old jail.

Related Articles: 

Discussions On New Oklahoma Co. Jail Sites Held By Commissioners Wednesday

Alternate Jail Sites Discussed By Oklahoma County Commissioners

Oklahoma County Adds Stockyards To Potential Jail Locations, Commissioners Plan To Present Monday

Oklahoma Co. Commissioners Make Offer On Land For New Jail Site

County Commissioners Vote On A New Jail Location Near Will Rogers World Airport

New Jail Location Search Back At Square One, 2 More Locations Dismissed

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