State Health Commissioner 'Deeply Concerned' After Inspectors Barred From Entering Oklahoma Co. Jail

Oklahoma State Health Department Inspectors claim they’re being locked out of the Oklahoma County Jail and unable to complete annual inspections required by state law.

Wednesday, July 10th 2024, 4:36 pm

By: Storme Jones, News 9


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Oklahoma State Health Department Inspectors claim they’re being locked out of the Oklahoma County Jail and unable to complete annual inspections required by state law.

For the second time in two weeks, Oklahoma State Health Department Inspectors report they were refused entry into the facility for unannounced inspections.

On both June 25 and July 9, state inspectors report being told they “will not be allowed to enter the facility, as there was not enough staff to support the inspection process.”

The apparent lack of cooperation led to the facility’s 12th and 13th failed inspection in a row since 2015, according to online records.

Oklahoma County Assistant District Attorney Aaron Etherington wrote the state health department letters after each failed inspection, writing following the second instance, “The Department of Health has once again exceeded its lawful authority in attempting to conduct the unannounced inspection of the detention center”

The letters under District Attorney Vicki Behenna’s letterhead call the Notice of Non-Compliance issued to the jail “void.”

Of the more than 80 annual city and county jail inspections completed in 2024 by OSDH inspectors and reviewed by News9, all were unannounced.

State Health Commissioner Keith Reed issued a response to the District Attorney’s Office pointing to a section of state law that reads, “Inspectors employed by the State Department of Health shall be permitted to enter all jail premises and administrative offices for the purpose of performing their assigned duties.”

Reed went on to write, that the District Attorney's Office “makes broad sweeping and wholly unsupported conclusions regarding the Department of Health’s authority to inspect the Oklahoma County Detention Center.” Adding, “I am concerned and troubled by your office’s unsupported position.”

The county offered to host inspectors on three prescheduled dates in July and August.

The state health commissioner is uninterested, writing, “As it stands now, the county is simply communicating its desire to stage conditions for inspections, manipulating circumstances to bear the most favorable, even if inaccurate, results. This is deeply concerning.”

All of this comes as the most recent inspection in 2023 found bed bugs, cockroaches, unreported injuries, and a lack of supervision. That inspection was unannounced.

The State Health Department, Oklahoma County Detention Center, and Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office all declined to comment for this story.

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