HINTON, Okla. (KFOR) – KFOR is following up on a story we brought you about Oklahoma prisoners who were locked in tiny shower stalls for hours, and for some, even days. Inmates spoke with KFOR and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections explained more about their investigation.
“It was a terrible experience. I’m 22 years in. That’s the first time I’ve ever had to go through anything like that,” said James Shelton, inmate at Great Plains Correctional Center.
Inmate at the Great Plains Correctional Center, James Shelton, told KFOR he was locked in a shower for about 24 hours. He said staff were wanting to transfer him to a pod full of gang members which is something he felt would put him in danger. So, he feels that since he refused housing in this certain unit, he was punished and locked in a shower.
“I feel that we were being punished… I’m not a gang member, so I refused to be housed on a unit that’s all gang members,” said Shelton.
Shelton said he had no restroom breaks, blankets, or even a pillow to lie down on.
“They expect you to use the restroom in the shower. And if you have a bowel movement, they want to bring a trash bag… If you just have to urinate, they want you to urinate in the drain,” said Shelton.
However, the Chief of Operations for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Jason Sparks said during the investigation they found that inmates who requested a pillow or blanket were given one. He also said inmates were allowed bathroom breaks.
“I guess it really depends on the inmate itself. And that’s why I said as they requested them, if the inmate is on a special watch or whatever, they’re not allowed a pillow, mattress or blanket… So, during the investigation, it concluded that there were a few inmates that were held an extended period of time. But during that time, they were offered food and water and also allowed to go to the restroom,” said Jason Sparks, the Chief of Operations at the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
According to the report, the inspector general started looking into things when they got a report that inmates were placed in the shower cells for disciplinary reasons.
Sparks said their findings show it was not for disciplinary reasons, but rather a holding place for inmates while they looked for other places for them to stay.
“I think it’s important to note that they were given the opportunity on several occasions to be housed in the housing assignments that we had for them, but they continuously refused. So, in the investigation, I believe that there was a couple of inmates that were housed over a 24-hour period there. But again, they were allowed ample opportunity to go to the housing unit that we had for them and give them bathroom breaks throughout the whole entire time,” said Sparks.
Sparks said holding inmates in a shower for a very short period of time is something the prison would do temporarily, but this time things got out of hand.
“It was some place that had a lockable door so they could house them for a temporary period of time… When the inmates refuse to house and we don’t have a lot of space to put them in, temporarily, we at some point have them in showers in a special management unit for a temporary period of time. That time can go from 30 minutes. They can go to, you know, a few hours while we try to find different housing availability for them,” said Sparks.
The DOC says they are not using showers as holding places anymore.
“We’re no longer using shower cells as temporary housing for inmates,” said Sparks.
Shelton is hoping no other inmate will endure what he did.
“This is not right. You know, we need to get people, you know, fighting about this,” said Sparks.
The showers inmates were locked in at the Great Plains Correctional Center are 3 feet by 2-and-a-half feet.
The DOC says they are no longer using shower cells as temporary housing for inmates and staff have been disciplined. The DOC would not go into specifics about their punishment.