COVID causes staffing concerns at Oklahoma County jail

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Troubles continue at the Oklahoma County Jail, and this time officials say COVID-19 is causing staffing levels to become critical.

Jail officials say employee turnover has always been an issue, but this year COVID-19 has put even more pressure on management to keep staffing numbers up.

“We’ve got a lot of staff that are out on COVID. That has really impacted the number of people that are able to come to work,” said Greg Williams.

The new head of the Oklahoma County Jail says he currently has 28 employees out who have tested positive or are waiting for test results.

He says others are self quarantining.

That means 90 of the close-to 340 employees at the jail are impacted by the pandemic.

“The number of people that would call in over the last month more at the last minute requires a lot of quick scheduling changes,” said  Tricia Everest, Chair of the Okla. County Criminal Justice Authority.

Officials say CARES ACT money could be used on jail employees and keep staffing up.

“(We) are definantly  looking into some form of a hazard pay recognizing a lot of individuals are coming in in difficult situations,” said Everest.

Officials say the short staffing doesn’t increase safety or security concerns any more than normal at the jail.

OKC Police confirm they writing more citations and using other options to try to keep inmate numbers low. 

KFOR has received numerous complaints of continued lockdowns and late meals inside the jail for inmates.

Officials say that’s just part of keeping people safe in the pandemic.

“It’s really in the best interest of everybody not to get people out unless you absolutely have to, but when you take that approach there are some cost to that, it does slow down feeding and it does slow down all different applications,” said Williams.

Williams says they were behind in hiring when he took over in July, thanks to the jail management change.

As for a plan to fix the problem?

“Keep staff as safe as we can, keep inmates as safe as we can. Take every precaution that we can. Get tested, stay home, get well, come back to work. I think that is really the only plan to fight this thing,” said Williams.

Officials say they will be holding a job fair this week to recruit new employees.

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