Oklahoma County Jail Trust could vote to accept $34 million in CARES Act money

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority, more commonly known as the Jail Trust, could vote to accept $34 million in CARES Act dollars that was allocated to them by the board of county commissioners.

On Monday, the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority could vote to accept $34 million in CARES Act funds for COVID-19 response at the jail. 

“It’s very likely that any county jail is the largest spreader of COVID within that county and that’s likely in Oklahoma County,” Commissioner Kevin Calvey, District 3, told KFOR after the vote. 

Commissioner Calvey and Brian Maughan, District 2, both voted to allocate the money to trust. 

Commissioner Carrie Blumert, District 1, was prepared to vote no. However, the vote happened before she was seated in her chair. 

“My main issue is that the jail trust never requested this money and so for us to, in one fell swoop, move all of those CARES dollars over to the trust was inappropriate, an inappropriate use of the money and the trust does not have a plan to spend the money,” she said that day. 

Protesters showed up last Monday at the jail trust meeting, urging the trust not to accept the funds. 

“We’re asking that you hear and see that there are overlooked people,” one protester said. 

“The problem here is that the jail has not been funded properly from the beginning,” another protester shared during public comment. 

Chair of the trust, Tricia Everest, told KFOR the funding could really help with coronavirus response efforts at the jail. 

“Knowing that there are 1,675 people that are in our care right now, much less our employees and their well being, I certainly will say as my authority as chair of the authority, the jail trust, we need to do anything we can to identify how to build a medical triage, a reception area so that it’s safe for all of our partners to come in,” Everest said. 

The trust has already received $3 million of the county’s CARES Act money for a “Hero Bonus” for jail employees. 

Also on Monday’s agenda, separate from the $34 million, there is another item that would allocate $3 million of CARES Act dollars to the trust to help improve plumbing and air circulation at the jail. 

Everest said those funds would help reduce negative air flow. 

“Covid has been determined that it can be transversed through the air and then also for the plumbing, the significance of what happens now which has certainly been a problem historically, the realization that if the plumbing is backing up and the bacteria is transmitted through that backup could also be creating a larger health risk with COVID and other future things that will most likely come out of having Covid at this time,” Everest said. 

County Treasurer Butch Freeman has been vocal about his concern regarding such a large amount of CARES Act money going to the trust. He’s worried it will spark a federal audit. 

“There’s an awful lot of water that’s going to come under that bridge in the coming months and make no mistake about it, it concerns me,” Freeman said last week. 

The jail trust meets on Monday, Aug. 31 at 1 p.m. 

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