OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – On Monday, the Oklahoma Criminal Justice Authority, also known as the jail trust, met for the first time since the Oklahoma State Department of Health barred them from housing juveniles following a recent inspection.
“We have juveniles who have cited they have not seen or heard staff members in their pod in an entire day,” Frances Ekwerekwu, a trustee on the Oklahoma County jail trust, said.
That’s just one of the 35 deficiencies listed in an OSDH inspection report that was sent to the Oklahoma County Jail last week, barring them from housing juvenile inmates.
Some of the other “repeat deficiencies” listed in the report include inmates not being fed three times a day, emergency phones that don’t work, overcrowding in the cells and a lack of medical and mental health screenings.
“It’s just kind of really sickening to see it all on paper and my thoughts are, we’ve got to get to work,” Ekwerekwu said.
That’s why Ekwerekwu requested to hear from Greg Williams, jail administrator, about these ongoing issues at Monday’s jail trust meeting.
“In terms of the OSDH report, there’s a lot of talk about sight checks where we are looking to see that people are still living,” Ekwerekwu said to Williams. “What do you say to that? What are you doing to remedy this?”
“We are recruiting staff and training staff, new employees that will do sight checks,” said Williams. “We’ve been able to recruit seven people into that job class.”
Juveniles who are charged with Murder 1 are still being housed at the jail right now. There are currently 12 of them in there as of last week.
However, a new state law that goes into effect in November could change that.
“There has to be a level of observation and ability for juvenile detainees to reach out to staff members to be heard and seen and to be heard and seen by staff members and for them to see and hear staff members in jail,” Ekwerekwu told News 4.
Williams told members of the trust during Monday’s meeting that is not really possible with their current facility.
So, the trust’s legal counsel is working on getting legal opinions about the matter.
“With that said and in conjunction with the recent health department recommendations, I fully believe that we do not need to be housing anyone under the age of 18 at our jail,” Ekwerekwu said.