OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma County Detention Center administrators provided the Oklahoma State Department of Health a corrective action plan in response to OSDH’s inspection of the jail.
OSDH officials inspected the jail Oct. 21-23, following myriad complaints of extreme neglect and unsanitary conditions from inmates and their families.
KFOR has heard from dozens of inmates over the past two years who’ve said they’ve had trouble getting their medications, at times were not fed on time and some showed large bed bug bites all over their bodies.
The jail also had a riot and hostage situation on March 27, 2021, that resulted in a detention officer stabbed and an inmate killed. Inmates stole the officer’s smart phone during the riot and used it to livestream on Facebook. They used the livestream to complain about no water pressure and other poor conditions at the jail.
There have also been several inmate medical deaths at the jail.
And then there was the alleged ‘Baby Shark’ torture.
Two former detention officers and their supervisor were charged with cruelty for allegedly forcing inmates to listen to the children’s song ‘Baby Shark’ repeatedly for hours at a time while remaining handcuffed and standing.
“The deficiencies spotted by Health Department auditors are important. We recognize that reform of the jail and its operations is not complete and that more needs to be done, and we are glad to say we have already made several multiple improvements which have provided clear benefits,” said Greg Williams, CEO Oklahoma County Detention Center. “We remain committed to improving operations and conditions at OCDC to prioritize the health and safety of its employees and persons in custody. We are committed to working with outside partners to resolve every issue and solve every problem.”
The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority, also known as the Jail Trust, took control of jail operations on July 1, 2020. The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office previously managed the jail.
Jail officials state in a news release issued Friday that the Jail Trust has taken “significant steps” to improve jail operations and conditions related to detainee and employee health.
Officials said the the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system has been overhauled to allow fresh air throughout the jail, reduce mold spores and provide better temperature control.
However, a local woman spoke with KFOR earlier this month, saying her son, an inmate, contacted her and told her that the jail had freezing temperatures. She said her son told her that jail staff did not care about inmate wellbeing.
KFOR contacted jail officials and were told that the heat was working properly inside the jail.
The jail is now contracting with Summit Food Service to serve meals which meet the standard of the American Corrections Center.
“Under previous management, the kitchen was excessively dirty and many of the appliances were not in working order. As a result of the contract with Summit, the kitchen was completely overhauled,” the news release states.
Officials also said significant improvements were made by replacing the jails “outdated, rusted” water system, which provided very little hot water in many places, with a “new, digital, on-demand hot water system [that] helps OCDC operate a cleaner and healthier facility.”
Oklahoma County Commissioner Carrie Blumert, District 1, spoke with KFOR earlier this month about progress she saw at the jail during an inspection.
“When I walked in, I immediately noticed that the building smelled better than it normally does. I can tell that the staff had put a lot of effort into cleaning and sanitizing and making sure it’s much cleaner than it typically had been,” Blumert told News 4.
Blumert said she spoke with two inmates and they did not complain about conditions.
“I pulled two detainees out and asked each detainee individually, ‘Do you have what you need? Do you have a bed? Do you have your medications? Have you had food at the right times?’” she said. “Both detainees said that they had everything they needed, which I was very happy to hear.”
A plan for a new jail is in the works after a recent vote by county commissioners. However, how the nearly $300 million dollar facility will be funded is still up in the air.
Below is the corrective action plan jail officials provided to OSDH: