MIDWEST CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – Midwest City has voted to end its professional service contract with The Criminal Justice Advisory Council, or CJAC, the advisory council for the Oklahoma County Detention Center.

Tuesday night, Midwest City Council debated for hours if funding CJAC has actually improved the jail’s conditions, and if it was worth it to continue investing taxpayer dollars into their efforts.

In the end, Midwest City Council voted five to two to stop funding CJAC, which they had given about $54,000 to over the last five years.

“Well, of course, we’re disappointed,” said CJAC Executive Director Tim Tardibono to KFOR on Wednesday after taking some time to reflect. “Unfortunately, the nature of last night’s meeting was so theatrical that it really made it hard to have an honest conversation about the benefits and the work that Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council has done to improve our county justice system and the continued improvements that are needed.”

He explained that CJAC’s mission focuses on convening many entities in the criminal justice system countywide – judges, law enforcement, reform and diversion programs, and the jail – to identify policies and laws that can be changed to create a fairer and more humane justice system. 

The City of Midwest City had been 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. Midwest City was also paying CJAC yearly for professional services.

Tuesday, the financial partnership ended after five years.

While CJAC influences policies at the Oklahoma County Jail, some in the Midwest City community were concerned about sending their residents there, and said CJAC was failing in its advisory role.

At the city council meeting, many citizens said they don’t want to fund CJAC’s services with their tax dollars if the Oklahoma County Jail’s conditions continue to be poor — including 14 inmate deaths this year.

“You are liable, too, if you continue to support the things that are detrimental to our citizens,” said one resident during public comment.

“They have done nothing in that jail,” another resident said to the listening councilpersons. “They have done nothing to make it better.”

“It’s time we do the right thing,” another said. “You guys have one small step where you can do this. Cut off the funding.”

Tardibono reacted to the resulting 5 to 2 vote to end the partnership by saying that Midwest City’s voice was important to their efforts in creating a more humane justice system for the county.

“We do work for the Justice system as a whole,” he said. “It’s not just the jail and that’s what unfortunately people focus on. The jail is run by different people. We don’t run the jail. And so we look at other things related to law enforcement, the court system and data sharing, fines and fees, pretrial release, accountability systems. We look at all those other pieces. And so to the extent that the Midwest city is not going to be part of those conversations, they’re going to lose out on that input and activity. But we are serving the county as a whole. So those improvements will continue for the county.

MWC Councilwoman Sara Bana disagrees with Tardibono.

“Unfortunately, the terms of the contract, I would argue, were never delivered,” she told KFOR. “But what it means is that as we move forward, we are not going to invest and continue funneling sales, municipal sales taxes to a county jail that’s been in crisis and that crisis has definitely escalated.”

She explained further that she plans on asking the city council if she can re-bring an item back up to hire external legal help to research the removal of Midwest City residents from the Oklahoma County Jail. She proposed their residents are sent to an alternative facility, such as a jail in a surrounding county.

Tardibono told KFOR that despite Midwest City opting out of their agreements with CJAC — Oklahoma County, The City of Oklahoma City, and the City of Edmond all chose to renew their contracts.