OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A coalition of local activists and faith leaders joined together Friday at a northeast Oklahoma City church to call for change in Oklahoma County jail leadership.

They originally met earlier this week where they said they have waited for change, but they claim the issues have gotten worse and not better.

“We waited to see the death decline. We waited to see horror stories of the jail dissipate. We waited to see the direction change. But we see right now that it is not happening,” said local pastor, the Rev. Dr. John Reed Jr. on Friday. “Mr. Williams is incapable of righting the ship.”

The call comes as the jail has seen doubledigit deaths so far in 2022.

“Rikers Island has a population of approximately 5,700 inmates and has seen 16 deaths this year,“ said the Rev. Dr. Shannon Fleck, he Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches. “Our jail has a rough population of 1,700 and has had so far 14 deaths this year. Rikers Island has a death rate at 2.8 deaths per 1000, and ours has a rate of 8.2 per 1000.”

“It’s obvious that we need to go in a different direction with the Oklahoma County jail and the administration,” said local activist, Jabee Williams.

The group spoke on what they called terrible living conditions inside. They mentioned specific instances like the hostage situation involving a corrections officer in early 2021 and an alleged rape of a female detainee by a male inmate in July, among other things, that led to their call for change.

“It compels action on our part to address the very concerning and rapid deterioration of the Oklahoma County jail,” Reed said. “The Jail Trust must find new leadership, that it must depart from its current path under the leadership of the current jail administrator, Mr. Gregg Williams.”

The Oklahoma County Jail Trust released a statement Friday:

“In his time as CEO of the Oklahoma County Jail, Greg Williams has provided excellent service to our community, especially to the detainees and staff at the jail.

Under exceedingly difficult circumstances, including a global pandemic, he has overseen projects which made material improvements in conditions, reversing decades of neglect in the facility. As the Jail Trust acknowledges, much work remains to improve safety and security and, most importantly, to do everything we can to stop deaths in the facility. We work constantly to increase staffing levels and remain vigilant against contraband.

We thank members of the faith community and others who have shared their concerns and their desire to make things better, and we remain committed to making improvements to protect staff and detainees.”

Jim Couch, Oklahoma County Jail Trust Chair

One of the newest Jail Trust members, Pastor Derrick Scobey released the following statement:

“I listened carefully to what was expressed by many Pastors and community members this morning at Fairview Baptist Church. I found their analysis of the situation at the jail and their prescription to be accurate and necessary. I will act according to their directions and in the interest of the community, because I am accountable to the community as a member of the Trust. I also agree that the time to find new leadership for the jail is upon us.

I was disappointed by Mr. Couch’s response to the reasonable and almost unanimously-supported request for change, because I found it to be dismissive of respected elders, clergy, leaders, and an overwhelming majority of people living in this county. Everyone, except Mr. Couch it seems, understands that despite Mr. Williams’ best efforts, he has proven himself incapable of doing the job up to our standards.

The jail remains a place of death, horror, and harm. And I am committed to remediating these present conditions with all my might. I only ask that all of us convicted of our moral responsibility to help do so and attend the next Jail Trust meeting on Monday, November 7, 2022 at 1 p.m.

Thank you,

Derrick Scobey