HINTON, Okla. (KFOR) – An investigative piece reported by Oklahoma Watch showed several inmates were being held inside small showers for days at an Oklahoma correctional center.
According to Oklahoma Watch, the Great Plains Correctional Center in Hinton was recently taken over by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Soon after that, staff held certain inmates inside small showers for hours; and for some, even days.
“The inspector general’s report stated that they were in there. There was one inmate who was in there for three days. The officers in their report stated that they heard from other staff of the facility that the record amount of time in there was nine days,” said Keaton Ross, Oklahoma Watch investigative reporter.
Oklahoma Watch investigative reporter Keaton Ross shared with KFOR his findings that up to 17 inmates were locked inside two by two foot showers at the Great Plains Correctional Center in Hinton.
According to the report obtained by KFOR from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, the inspector general started looking into things when they got a report that inmates were placed in the shower cells for disciplinary reasons.
The report shows a staff member reported to investigators, “the numbers went from two to seventeen and then back down to five in a 24-hour period. <page 98>
“There weren’t restroom breaks, if there were, they were sparse. Some prisoners had cups of water, some didn’t,” said Ross.
According to the incident report, staff members told investigators several inmates were refusing housing in eight man living spaces. <section 86, page 29>
So, they placed prisoners in the shower stalls while they worked to find another place for them to stay. <section 87, page 29>
The staff member also stated to investigators that an inmate was offered a bed in the eight-man living space unit with a bed but refused. <section 102, page 31>
“There was basically a backlog in the restricted housing unit and they intended to put the inmates in the showers for 30 minutes, maybe as they tried to get them a more permanent cell,” said Ross.
However, those backlogs, inmates refusing to live in the eight-man live space, and overcrowding caused the transfer to take longer according to staff.
Emily Shelton told KFOR, her husband, James Shelton was one of those inmates.
Shelton told her he was locked inside the shower for about 24 hours, with meals not arriving on time and no restroom breaks.
“It’s very inhumane what they’re doing… It is very traumatizing,” said Emily Shelton, husband locked in shower at prison.
Saff members added quote, “Inmates had been left in the shower cells longer than they should have, but it was one hundred percent (100%) not intentional.” <flash section 84, page 29>
In that report, there were allegations of 8th amendment violations and that prisoners were not protected against cruel and unusual punishment.
Shelton is hoping to be a voice for those stuck in prison conditions like this.
“Without the guys reaching out to me and me coming to the news to bring it to people’s attention, a lot of this goes unsaid… They’re treated horrible. I mean, I don’t care what somebody’s locked up for. They’re sent away, their sentence is to be taken away from society, it’s not to be treated like they’re a dog locked up in a cage and they can just feed them and treat them however they want. They still have human rights behind those walls,” said Shelton.
A spokesperson for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections told KFOR, “We thoroughly investigated the situation once we were aware of possible incidents of inmates housing in showers. We confirmed inmates were placed in showers temporarily when they refused housing while waiting for a different cell to open, and it was confirmed that inmates were moved in and out of the showers all day. While in the showers, inmates were fed, had access to water, and were given restroom breaks. Any inmates in the showers for more than a few hours continued to refuse housing and chose to stay in the showers. Discipline was issued due to the investigation, and GPCC no longer uses shower cells as temporary housing.”