Updated: Jan 4
There will be a noise protest on Saturday, Jan. 8th, from 2:00-3:30 PM at the Oklahoma County Detention Center, with statements from community leaders and activists addressing the continuing unconstitutional and inhumane conditions at the County Jail. A press conference will be held at 1:30 PM prior to the event at the same location.
As the OK County Jail Trust closed out the year with a self-congratulatory two hour meeting touting their progress and purported improvements in the nation’s most deadly jail, the lack of proper oversight and negligent and cruel treatment of detainees made headlines multiple times in the final weeks of 2021. In the past two weeks alone, there were two deaths inside the jail and three employees were fired for illegal and unethical behavior, two of them charged criminally, with charges likely to be filed against the third detention officer.
It was a brutal and shameful close to a year that had 13 mostly preventable detainee deaths (double the yearly average), along with ongoing issues of violence, negligence, and unsafe conditions. Despite the Trust spending countless millions of dollars on improvements and repairs, justice reform advocates are receiving regular reports of ongoing issues with bedbugs, lack of proper medical care, and the closing of the just repaired kitchen for weeks at a time, leaving only bologna sandwiches and the occasional serving of beans as meals.
While County Commissioners and the Jail Trust are pushing for a new jail, at a cost of over $500 million to the taxpayers of Oklahoma County, to increase incarceration capacity in OK County, the Peoples’ Council for Justice Reform has continually advocated for restorative justice measures that will reduce the current jail population and eliminate many of the unconstitutional issues that currently plague the jail:
“We believe that 2022 can be a transformative year for justice reform in Oklahoma County, and on New Year’s Day we will continue to stand in solidarity with those suffering inside. We will not be deterred by the money hungry overlords who for centuries have profited from the suffering of others.
“By investing in proven economically and morally sound policies first, we can reduce the jail population to 500 detainees or less. Instead of continuing to subject detainees, of which over 80% are still awaiting trial and most of who are low-level nonviolent offenders, to inhumane conditions, we should instead invest in restorative justice measures, including:
· Building new mental health facilities and increasing funding for individualized community based mental health programs and facilities.
· Expanding individualized drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs and facilities.
· Prioritizing cash bail reform and establishing a revolving bail fund for low-level offenders at the county level.
· Investing in transitional housing, vocational training, and rehabilitative programs for the homeless community.
“While other communities and counties have had great success with similar measures, Oklahoma continues to have one of the highest incarceration rates in the entire world. By implementing these policies, we can transform lives and save considerable taxpayer money. Then, and only then, can we have a rational discussion about whether or not Oklahoma County needs a new jail that is 50% smaller than the current facility, not 50% larger.”