June 22, 2022
We’re six days away from the June 28 primary election date.
For Oklahoma County voters, one of the most notable items on the ballot is a $260 million bond proposal to fund construction of a new county jail.
There’s little disagreement about the jail’s state. It’s overcrowded, understaffed and prone to bed bug infestations. Critical design flaws make it difficult for staff to respond to emergencies. It consistently ranks among the nation’s deadliest jails.
Not everyone supports the current proposal: a two-story, 1,800-bed facility located within a 10-minute drive of downtown Oklahoma City.
Here’s a brief overview of arguments for and against building a new jail:
Supporters note that county tax rates will not increase if the bond is passed because existing bonds are nearly paid off. They say there is sufficient oversight to ensure jail construction funds are spent properly and construction is completed in a timely manner.
Critics argue the proposed jail is too large and costly. They say a greater emphasis should be placed on funding mental health, substance abuse and diversionary programs to keep people out of the jail. They also question how the county will fund continuing maintenance of the facility.
Don’t live in Oklahoma County? I encourage you to check out our jail conditions database. Dozens of facilities across the state failed health department inspections in 2020, with violations ranging from faulty fire detection systems to standing water in kitchens. I hope to have the database updated with 2021 reports soon.
As always, feel free to email me or DM me on Twitter with questions, comments and story ideas.
What I’m Reading This Week
Lawmaker: Report Shows Oklahoma Death Row Inmate’s Innocence: State Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, says a report released by Houston law firm Reed Smith solidifies an innocence claim made by death row prisoner Richard Glossip. McDugle said he will “fight to end the death penalty in Oklahoma” if Glossip is executed, possibly as soon as September. [The Associated Press]
Oklahoma AG Candidates Brawl in Heated Debate: Much of the debate centered on the July 2020 McGirt vs. Oklahoma decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court, which affirmed that Congress had not disestablished Indian Country reservations in eastern Oklahoma. [NonDoc]
District Attorney Candidates Voice Opinions on New Jail Vote: The central chunk of the debate, hosted by online publication Non-Doc, focused on the Oklahoma County Detention Center and policing, with topics ranging from managing the incarceration rate to charging detention officers and police officers for crimes to building a new jail. [KFOR]
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From the impact of COVID-19 behind bars to the effects of prison gerrymandering, my reporting focuses on how Oklahoma’s criminal justice system impacts people inside and outside of the system. It can take weeks or months for me to file public records requests, dig into documents and track down sources. As a nonprofit news organization, we rely on your financial support to do this time-consuming but important work. Help us make a difference.