A typo in the original version was corrected.
OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma County Commissioners voted ‘yes’ across the board Monday for a resolution to put a vote on an upcoming bond issue related to construction for a new county jail in the hands of the public.
The county had previously earmarked funding from the American Rescue Plan Act for the new construction, but the Treasury Department ruled that projects for construction on new correctional facilities would be “generally ineligible” for the money.
District 3 County Commissioner Kevin Calvey told KFOR that if the public votes yes on June 28th, it would mean the opportunity to improve public safety without raising taxes, and with greater accountability.
“There are some things you simply cannot fix,” said Calvey. “A better designed facility will enable us to operate it at a lower cost than the current facility.
Calvey also said multiple sets of eyes would be involved in the proposed construction project through an oversight committee who would closely watch the process to make sure the rollout occurs in a manner that would work.
Jail reform advocates countered the plan in an afternoon meeting with the jail trust, saying the problem isn’t just about the money, and won’t fix pre-existing problems.
“You’re asking the citizens of this county to pay for a larger jail to be built so that you can incarcerate more people instead of doing what has been scientifically proven, providing jobs, mental health, medical health and etc.,” said Christopher Johnston.
“If you build a new jail, it will not get rid bed bugs, of black mold…it won’t get rid of the poorly trained guards that are not qualified to be there,” added local activist Mark Faulk.
Officials said the estimated 300-million-dollar construction project provide a solution to long-standing problems that have plagued the old facility, including jail deaths, overcrowding, and overall poor conditions.
“If you’ve lived in Oklahoma County for any bit of time, you know this problem, it’s in the headlines,” said Timothy Tardibono, Executive Director of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council.
If funding is pushed through, the brand, new jail facility is estimated to cost nearly $300 million and would house up to 1,400 inmates, while including new space for medical and mental health treatment.
Any future location is still to be determined.
“If the voter wants to solve this problem without a tax increase, June 28th is the time to do it,” said Tardibono.
The public will have the opportunity to vote ‘yes’ or ‘not’ on the bond issue on June 28.