Community Pays Tribute to Those Who Died in the Oklahoma County Jail
Beverly Cantrell - January 9, 2022 3:54 pm
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KOKH)– Protesters are speaking out against what they’re calling injustices inside the Oklahoma County Jail.
For decades the jail has been plagued with a laundry list of health issues and safety violations.
The county is now looking into starting from scratch with a completely new facility.
A group of people stood outside the jail on Saturday, banging drums and shouting in megaphones to make sure the people inmates heard that someone is listening to them.
Protesters like Mark Faulk said they’re using their voices to speak up to those who aren’t able to anymore.
Protesters brought a makeshift coffin and carried it inside the front entrance of the jail.
People passed out roses to pay tribute to those who lost their lives inside the building.
“One of the reasons we are here is to remember the thirteen people who died at the hands of the jail trust,” Faulk said. “They were not killed by a building. They were killed by the incompetence. They were killed by people who deliberately have neglected abuse and created these inhumane conditions.”
The most recent death in the jail was around Christmas time.
A detention officer was fired for failing to check in on an inmate in a mental health unit.
That inmate, Gabriel Yalartai, committed suicide.
Currently, plans for a nearly $300-million jail that would include a mental health unit are in the works.
Protesters said a new jail isn’t what the county needs.
“We can build mental health facilities with that COVID money that will help people,” Faulk said. “We can build drug and alcohol addiction centers that will help the people that we now throw in there to traumatize every single day. We can build transitional housing to get the homeless people who grow in population every day some help.”
With lives on the line and a long history of issues, protesters said they’re hoping this year is the year to make corrections.
“We have a golden opportunity in 2022, and that opportunity is to begin down the path of restoring justice,” Faulk said.
Protesters said they think by putting a mental health facility in the new jail, it’s criminalizing mental health.
They are hoping that the federal dollars that could be used for the new jail will instead be geared towards community mental healthcare.