Dear Oklahoma County

By Chris Johnston


I meant to write this letter sooner but I was very busy as well as recovering from COVID-19 so I have just been working on getting well. And yes, I was vaccinated, and thank my lucky stars I was because I would have ended up in the hospital if I was not vaccinated, because it beat me down. I wanted to write this letter to discuss briefly what is happening with our county jail. Like you may have already guessed we are still having issues with deaths in our county jail. There was to my knowledge a few weeks ago where two people died in the same week. There are still reports of abuses being inflicted on people incarcerated by the guards, from beatings to people being locked outside of their cells for simply the enjoyment of cruel guards. It often feels like that you can expect someone to die every month at that place. Our jail, because of the hard work of community activists and your everyday concerned citizen, is being examined underneath a microscope and is out in the public eye of what is going on there. I feel there are more people now than ever that are calling for criminal justice reform in our county. However, I am worried about how we may be moving forward in dealing with our criminal justice issue.


A few weeks ago, there was a community meeting held at a church hosted by The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council, or commonly called CJAC. And in this meeting, it became clear how the county is wanting to fix this problem. Instead of addressing the well-documented human rights abuses, the well documented corruption, overpopulation, etc., they are trying to peddle the idea of a new jail or annex being the magic fix. And they are trying to use people who others trust. CJAC, instead of talking about the leadership problems, they brought before the people an architectural firm. The firm that they have essentially hired to build the jail they want. CJAC is a non-government agency that was created by the OKC Chamber of Commerce in 2015, and they have numerous rich tycoons, politicians, and “nonprofit organizations” that are in literal control of our county criminal justice system. Yes, non-governmental agencies have control of our taxpayer's money, roughly $30 or more million of our money yearly essential passes through the hands of rich people and "nonprofits". I put nonprofit in quotations because you still have to make a profit to run things and it is only a switch in the tax language that makes it a "nonprofit". CJAC created The Jail Trust without a single citizen voting for or against it. And it is very troublesome that the people had no say. And I find it hard to think the entity that created the trust has our best interests in mind.

I attended the CJAC meeting on August 19th and the “Community Liaison” for Frankfurt Short Bruza Associates PC, ”the architectural firm,“ told everyone in that room that the overwhelming majority of people are hopeful and trust the current leadership of our jail. That's not what I have heard from countless demonstrations and town hall meetings. You guessed it folks, they are trying to get hired to make a lot of money so they lied and did it using a few quotes from people in the audience of that community meeting at the church. And Commissioner Kevin Calvey was pushing out leaflets about the $150 million from the federal government, hoping his constituents think that a good way to spend it is by building a jail. One could deduce that CJAC is banking on that federal CARES Act money coming in. Our fight last year over the $40 million-plus being stolen is a drop in the bucket compared to what they are about to do. Be vigilant and be informed. Just remember there are no gatekeepers to activism. You do not have to have one approve of something that is well known amongst people. It is all of us that have to come to the fight and be the gatekeepers of justice. There are many faces to change.


CJAC's answer is they are trying to make us believe more money will fix the problem. From 2011 going into 2022 the expenditures of our county jail have been over $620 million. That is drastically rounding down and not including the CARES Act money they stole last year. My source is the public expenditure report in the 2020 county budget packet. The current county budget going into 2022 states that the Board of County Commissioners has approved $32,384,710 to the jail, and that is not including cities putting money in or federal money, that is strictly county approved funds. Yet they are unable to purchase bleach and mops to clean the urine and feces off of the floors and walls, unable to fix the communication system issues, moldy food, and the list goes on. This is not a money issue, this is a people issue. We have funneled enough money into that facility to fix it up and to not have any problems, and now they want even more money with the promise of new justice within the same regime that oppresses and brutalizes.




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