MIDWEST CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – Protesters in Midwest City are demanding elected officials end all contracts with the Criminal Justice Advisory Council, which influences policies at the Oklahoma County Detention Center. On Thursday, the demonstrators said CJAC is failing in its role, citing their outrage towards the 14 inmates that have died at the jail this year.
Ultimately, the demonstrators with the People’s Council for Justice Reform said they don’t want any more Midwest City residents being taken to the Oklahoma County’s jail, proposing instead they be taken to jails in outside counties.
“This is the most dangerous jail in these United States and it’s time Midwest City develop the backbone and have the guts to stand up for your people,” said Chris Johnston of the People’s Council for Justice Reform.
The group made their demands at Midwest City’s city hall. They planted 14 miniature flags in the grass there in the memory of the 14 people who have died at the Oklahoma County Jail this year.
“We have got to do something different for our citizens that get arrested,” said Garland Pruitt with NAACP Oklahoma City. “Can’t make bail. Can’t make bond. End up dying in a facility that has a reputation of death. That’s a problem.”
Midwest City Councilwoman Sara Bana helped organize the protest as a citizen. She and her protesting counterparts said a great start to disassociating with the Oklahoma County Jail would be ending Midwest City’s yearly financial contracts with the CJAC for professional services.
CJAC consults the Oklahoma County Jail, as well as the county’s justice system overall.
“No reasonable taxpayer can normalize getting back into an unnecessary contract that does not serve the needs or interests of the residents or taxpayers of this city, which further diminishes the integrity of our municipality,” Bana said.
KFOR asked the City of Midwest City for comment on the demonstration.
“The Mayor and Council of the City of Midwest City recognize Councilmember Bana’s First Amendment Right to express her opinions on issues in our community,” said Mayor Matt Dukes. “Councilmember Bana’s comments do not reflect the opinion of the City Council of the City of Midwest City and we have no further comments regarding the subject of the Councilmember’s demonstration.”
CJAC sent us a statement as well.
“CJAC is a partnership, not just with government partners, but service providers and non-profits,” said Timothy Tardibono, Executive Director of CJAC. “We value each of our community partners and have had tremendous contributions from Midwest City. We value their partnership and look forward to many future years of shared collaboration and productivity. As our website illustrates, there are numerous organizations CJAC works with, all with the common goal of a more fair and effective justice system for the residents of Oklahoma County. We intend to continue that important mission.”
Lastly, we received a statement from CEO of the Oklahoma County Detention Center Greg Williams.
“The Jail Trust has tasked the staff with providing a safe and humane facility,” he said. “In the more than two years since the Jail Trust took over operations, we have made many improvements to our procedures and the physical facility, which have greatly improved conditions. We will continue with this work every day with safety and security as our top priority.”
The Midwest City council votes on renewing their professional service agreement with CJAC on September 27. The agreement is a part of an Interlocal Agreement between Oklahoma County, Oklahoma City, The City of Edmond, and The City of Midwest City which formed CJAC to analyze data and facilitate policy improvements in the county’s justice system.