Oklahoma Co. Jail ‘Not Fixable’ Facility Says As Criminal Justice Panel Pursues New Detention Center
Beverly Cantrell - October 22, 2021 2:41 pm
OKLAHOMA CITY –
The panel of law enforcement officials, criminal justice experts, and local leaders voted to pursue research of a new jail facility in Oklahoma County.
The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council, a non-governmental body made up of officials from several communities across the county, supported the idea of building a new facility to replace the current jail at their meeting Thursday.
The Oklahoma County Detention Center, challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic and a significant staff shortage, is “not fixable,” said Dan Straughan, Executive Director of the Oklahoma City Homeless Alliance and a CJAC member.
Consulting group FSB presented the panel with two options: building a new jail or renovating the current facility at 201 N. Shartel Ave. Both came with priorities of modernizing the booking and intake functions, adding space for a medical unit, and improving layouts for inmate monitoring.
The estimated cost of renovation, according to FSB, was roughly $276 million. A new facility would cost about $300 million and would result in fewer operational costs.
“What we heard today was that the cost of renovation is not worth it to the taxpayer,” said Tim Tardibono, CJAC director.
The panel voted to direct FSB to continue research on the option of building a new facility. After reviewing any new information, CJAC will make a final recommendation for the Oklahoma County Commission at its November meeting.
A new jail facility could cost about $300 million, according to FSB, while a renovation of the current jail could cost about $275 million.
About $150 million of the cost could be covered by federal funding provided by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), FSB told the panel. The rest could be paid for with bonds that would require extending current county taxes. No new tax increase would be necessary, according to the consultant group.
“That facility simply cannot allow us to accomplish the goals we want and to provide safe, humane treatment unless we have another 100 or 200 people working there,” Tardibono said.
Multiple CJAC members said the jail is currently experiencing a “crisis” that is threatening the lives of inmates. Nine inmates have died while in jail custody so far this year, according to Wayne Snow, the community liaison for the FSB group working on the project.
Activist Christopher Johnston criticized the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice, which currently manages the jail.
“I agree with building another jail, but we have to try to stabilize the trauma that’s going on, the bleeding right now. We should be talking to the (U.S.) Department of Justice and having them come in,” Johnston said.