OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Some state leaders are turning their attention to the Oklahoma County Detention Center’s problems.
“There aren’t more deplorable conditions than what we have right here in Oklahoma County,” said Senator Michael Brooks.
“The Oklahoma County Jail is absolutely deplorable and not livable,” said Rep. Jason Lowe.
On Wednesday, the discussion focused on the jail as part of an interim, bipartisan study on prison conditions at the State Capitol. Some state lawmakers heard testimony about the problems at the Oklahoma County Jail, including overcrowding, staffing shortage and poor infrastructure.
“Rather it’s flooding, and rather it’s sewage, rather it’s a lot of other things at the county jail, it has been a nightmare since the day it started,” said Brooks.
“When there are too many people in jail, more individuals are exposed to harm that would increase their likelihood of returning to jail in the future,” said Commissioner Carrie Blumert.
In July, the Oklahoma State Department of Health sent non-compliance inspection reports to jail leaders and the trust.
The report contains more than 30 concerns, such as a lack of medical and mental health checks, and women and men assigned to the same pods.
“When you don’t have enough staff, it increases the risk of harm for detainees,” said Blumert.
Some lawmakers are worried about inmates’ injuries and deaths, and they have heard complaints from constituents.
“We need to build a new jail,” said Lowe.
“The big question is how would [we] pay for it? Cost estimates for building a new facility are in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Blumert.
Oklahoma County will receive $154,000,000 from American Rescue Plan, but Commissioner Blumert is not sure if the money can be used to build a new jail.