OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A group of outspoken faith leaders and community activists plan to formally ask the administrator of the Oklahoma County Jail to resign.
Supporters told KFOR that a group of about 30 clergy and community activists and advocates gathered Monday at the Fairview Missionary Baptist Church to discuss the strategy.
A release from the group said that “as moral leaders of the community, [the group] had a moral obligation to report the abuses at the jail”.
“We have patiently waited for the current administration to address and correct the problems but they seem to be getting worse instead of better,” read a statement from Rev. Dr. John A. Reed, Jr., senior pastor of Fairview Baptist Church.
“It has become evident that there needs to be a change in the culture at the jail and we believe that starts at the top with Jail Administrator Greg Williams.”
“Every day there’s a new report coming out either a death or an assault [and] something needs to happen,” said Community activist Jabee Williams, also noting that most of the people in Oklahoma County aren’t there because they’ve been convicted of a crime [yet]; more often becaus they’re waiting for trial or because they can’t afford bond.
“We should be taking care of them in the correct way when they’re in our custody [and] the fault lies on the administration,” he added.
Williams said the community collaboration among leaders could help have an impact with in calling for change with many different groups across Oklahoma County.
“It’s important that you speak in a language that these people understand [and] I know that my platform and the voice I have, definitely sounds different than [the] pastors and the clergy here in Oklahoma City,” he said in an interview Tuesday with KFOR.
The strategic move comes following the announcement that 14 inmates that have died at the jail so far in 2022, and after news that an inmate was recently accused of raping a woman handcuffed to a cell.
The high stakes call comes less than three years after the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice authority voted to appoint Williams as the new jail administrator.
At the time, officials touted his decades of experience but his tenure as administrator has been marked my staggering allegations of abuse and neglect and a large number of inmate deaths.
The group said they plan to ask the jail administrator to either step down or ask that he be removed as a result of the ongoing issues and problems that have plagued the jail since he assumed the role.
“The concern is that our county jail is not being administered properly and has not been for a significant period of time,” said Rev. Dr. Shannon Fleck, Executive Director, Oklahoma Conference of Churches.
“There have been multiple deaths under his watch and [Oklahoma County] has the most deaths of any county jail in the entire nation. Our ask is that our jail trusts consider removing Mr. Williams from his position as the jail administrator,” she added.
More recently, in September, a group of protestors in Midwest City demanded an end to all contracts with the Criminal Justice Advisory Council, which influences policies at the Oklahoma County Detention Center.
The month of August marked the 13th death at the jail, while in July it was announced that the Oklahoma County Jail faced hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines from the Oklahoma State Department of Health after they found multiple and repeated deficiencies within the jail.
In June, a lawsuit was filed against Oklahoma County Detention Center leaders, saying detention officer orchestrated the stabbing of inmate in his sleep
“We should be [looking] for somebody who is able to go in [to the jail] and find solutions, who’s able to be proactive and making sure our jail doesn’t stay in the condition that it’s in,” said Williams.
The group is now calling on the jail trust to appont an interim administrator while they search for a replacement.
“We are calling on the jail trust to appoint an interim and enact a national search for a replacement. We need somebody in that role who’s going to instill a culture of humanity and grace, not a culture of punishment and assault,” said Fleck.
“I’m concerned as a community member as to why action has not been taken,” she added.
“At what point does the [jail] trust say, ‘OK, enough is enough, we need to change gears?'”