OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma lawmakers are calling upon federal authorities to intervene at the Oklahoma County Detention Center and address the “horrendous conditions” at the jail.
Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus members sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, pleading with him to respond to alarming conditions at the Detention Center.
“Inmates are subject to mold, bed bugs, and a lack of access to medical care and basic health and hygiene needs,” the letter states.
The lawmakers described the jail conditions as civil rights violations that require the attorney general’s attention.
The letter noted that 10 inmates have died in the jail since the Oklahoma County’s Jail Trust took over the Detention Center this past July; six of those 10 deaths occurred in 2021.
The Black Caucus members also mentioned the deadly hostage situation that occurred on March 27 at the Detention Center, during which a detention officer was stabbed and held at knifepoint and an inmate killed.
Inmates seized the detention officer’s smart phone during the hostage crisis and used it to livestream a video from inside the jail. During the video, the inmates said their actions were in response to squalid conditions at the jail.
One inmate who appeared in the video said they were doing what had to be done because they have no food and cannot take showers at the jail. Another inmate is then seen standing over the crouched detention officer with his hand on the back of the officer’s neck, berating him.
The inmate holding the phone can then be heard saying that the water in the jail does not work and the toilets are backed up.
Mothers of jail inmates spoke with KFOR in the wake of the hostage crisis, one claiming her son was not allowed to shower for 19 days, and another claiming her son received inadequate medical care at the jail.
A representatives for the jail’s in-house medical care provider, Turn Key Health, sent a letter to jail administrators days after the hostage crisis. The representative cited unsafe conditions for Turn Key staff and threatened to cancel the company’s contract with the jail if staffing was not increased by the end of the month.
Turn Key representatives later noted a security presence improvement during daily operations at the jail and opted to not cancel the company’s contract with the jail.
Turn Key representatives said there is still a need for more staff at the Detention Center, but that they look forward to continuing a long partnership with the jail.
Jail administrators recently said the jail’s water pressure issues were repaired. Water pressure was shut off from 3:30 a.m. to noon on April 8 to allow for repairs.
Mac Mullings with the jail said the long-planned repairs were needed to fix detention center flooding issues and address some of the concerns cited in the Oklahoma Department of Health report that was released following the hostage crisis.
The full letter to Garland from the Black Caucus is as follows: