OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Voters decided it needed to happen. Oklahoma County will get a new jail, and the work to get it built will start next month.
It’s a wrap for the highly-controversial Oklahoma County Detention Center, according to the Criminal Justice Advisory Committee, or CJAC, which is tasked with improving the county’s jail and justice system.
Executive director Tim Tardibono said the primary election vote for a $260 million bond to fund a new jail was a “blow out.”
“We appreciate the voters that they looked at both proposals and they went forward with the yes vote at a pretty strong mandate of almost 60%,” he said. “This [current] location will be history. This 30 year debacle will be history.”
He’s laying out what’s next in five major steps.
Next month, the Oklahoma County Commissioners will start developing a Construction Oversight Committee – a group of of citizens with expertise in construction and finance who’ll keep the jail project transparent and accountable.
After that, leaders of the new jail project need to find a program manager to oversee design and architecture.
In November or December, CJAC expects the money from the approved bonds to start rolling in.
They hope the jail design process begins at the start of 2023 and, finally, for official construction to launch at the end of 2023 or the start of 2024.
Tardibono said all dates are subject to change, but he’s feeling very enthusiastic about the progress overall.
The People’s Council for Justice Reform – vocal opponents of the new jail – say voting yes to the bond vote was a huge mistake, believing that while the current jail is painful and problematic, building a new one won’t solve its management crisis, which member Chris Johnston referred to as “bleeding” that needs to be stopped.
“They’ve had their chance for over 30 years. It’s the same people that are allowing suffering and dying to happen,” said member Chris Johnston. “It’s like when you’re bleeding, you have to stop the bleeding, right? You don’t worry about the pain. You stop the bleeding first. This [current management] is the bleeding. We’re trying to stop the bleeding. And if our folks locally could have done it already, they would have done it already. So, we’re advocating for the United States Department of Justice to take over.”
Tardibono believes the jail’s new design – one level instead of the current 13 levels with only three elevators, and equipped with a mental health and medical wing, as well as having distinct areas for low, middle, and maximum security inmates – will dramatically improve management issues, decrease inmate deaths and injuries, and make recruiting better quality employees easier.
He added that CJAC hopes for the current jail to be torn down in 2026 or 2027, after all staff and inmates are moved over to the new jail.
As for now, no location has been decided for where the new jail will be.