OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — Each working group of the Detention Center Action Committee (DCAC), a subcommittee of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust), provided finished reports Tuesday.
Their findings included recommendations to the Jail Trust to improve Jail operations and safety which will go to the full Jail Trust in its September 20 meeting.
In May of this year, the subcommittee formed three working groups to study three areas of concern and potential improvement at the Detention Center (Jail). Those areas of focus were direct supervision, Jail population reduction, and classification of detainees.
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Any attempt to implement direct supervision of detainees will require appropriate staffing numbers, which has long been a difficult objective.
At Tuesday’s meeting, that point was underscored by the working group’s report several times.
The report was broken into four strategies: Inmate Behavior Management, Appropriate Staffing, Training, and Converting to Direct Supervision.
During a discussion among the larger committee, training of staff was questioned by member Sara Bana who endorsed more CLEET certifications for detention officers. Currently, no staff is required to have that training.
New detention officers spend a week in classes for academy training, then they get training on-site at the Jail.
In contrast, Adriana Laws said that CLEET certification should not be offered as a job incentive as it has in the past. Laws said that the training often results in a military mindset, not conducive to the health and safety of Jail residents. Furthermore, the Jail has lost CLEET certified staff to law enforcement jobs in the past.
The most actionable item in their list of recommendations is to start a direct supervision pilot program, starting with one pod. Direct supervision would coincide with programming and social services in the pod.
The Direct Supervision report is available here: http://oklahomacounty.legistar.com/gateway.aspx?M=F&ID=cd571165-a07d-477c-aa34-1b2850df875c.pdf
In a jail built for 1200 people that currently holds approximately 1600 people, a common area of concern is to explicitly diminish the number of people who are in the Jail.
The crowded Jail, routinely holding three people to a cell, is populated at 80% with people who have not been sentenced for a crime. Many of those are sitting in jail because they don’t have the money to pay bail.
While cash bail is not something under the Jail Trust’s purview, Laws said that entering this report into the public record could create pressure on the politically connected members of the Trust.
Other recommendations for reducing the population include having a magistrate at the Jail who is able to release detainees on OR Bonds (Own Recognizance) and facilitating a homeless court to offer more appropriate legal intervention in the affairs of people experiencing homelessness.
Cite and release policies were discussed briefly on Tuesday. Bana asked if it was possible for the County Commissioners to pass a resolution listing offenses for citation and release. Counsel for the subcommittee explained that those policy decisions are made by municipalities and not the County.
Sheriff’s deputies have less leeway for those policies, as nearly all of their arrests are for county or state charges, and are not at the discretion of the Sheriff.
The population report can be viewed here: http://oklahomacounty.legistar.com/gateway.aspx?M=F&ID=cfd09438-cdf2-4668-bd42-abb70d44a9ca.pdf
At present, the classification of detainees at the Oklahoma County Detention Center has little practical meaning regarding the treatment and storage of people held in the Jail. The classification system in use was developed over twenty years ago.
The working group sought ways to implement a new and more appropriate system of determining who would be minimum, medium, or maximum security detainees.
The group was able to familiarize themselves with the system in place at Cleveland County Detention Center. Some of their recommendations were based on that system.
The group discussed staff having access to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), which would speed up the intake and classification system.
It was also recommended that the empty office space at the Jail be used for a “task force” or sorts, including service providers and programs like Northcare and TEEM.
That report is available here: http://oklahomacounty.legistar.com/gateway.aspx?M=F&ID=4d90d309-7eb6-4b67-87c1-3dd92169acc5.pdf
The DCAC voted on each of the reports and agreed to send them as official recommendations to the Jail Trust.
What the often recalcitrant Trustees will do with those recommendations remains to be seen.
DCAC Chair, and Jail Trust member, Francie Ekwerekwu said she intends to deliver the reports at the next meeting of the Trust.
The Jail Trust meets on September 20 at 1:00 p.m.
Last Updated September 7, 2021, 7:49 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor
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