CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Oklahoma Co. Sheriff defends jail's conditions

A Justice Department report rips the Oklahoma County jail as a chaotic and largely unsupervised den of "unconscionable” violence, abuse and medical neglect.

Detailed in the federal report are jail deaths, excessive use of force and a "disturbing” incident in which a pregnant woman was handcuffed to a rail for 10 hours while giving birth to a premature baby.

The child died at a metro-area hospital.

The year-old report was delivered to Oklahoma County officials last week, and Sheriff John Whetsel quickly responded Monday that most of the problems the agency found have already been corrected.

"I am confident that our work to resolve these issues will satisfy the concern expressed by the Department of Justice,” Whetsel said. "I have no problem in telling family members that their loved ones are safe.”

He added, "I can tell you this report is one year old. We have made the corrections.”

However, the seriousness of the report led the U.S. Marshals and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to transfer 160 federal inmates from the Oklahoma County jail over the weekend to jails in Tulsa and Grady counties until the issues are officially resolved.

The report details excessive inmate-on-inmate violence and use of force by jail staff, an unsanitary kitchen with birds and insects, lack of clothing and showers, several fire hazards and virtually no mental health treatment. There is also an inadequate investigatory process to review deaths and other serious incidents, according to the report.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department could not be reached for comment late Monday.

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney John Richter said the department's local office was reviewing the letter sent to the county and had no comment. [Mark Godsey]

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It is sad that conditions like these have happened in Oklahoma County. Hopefully, bringing these matters to the public's attention will result in corrective measures.

Yours in the Defense of Fellow Human Beings,

Glen R. Graham, Attorney at Law, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Posted by: Glen R. Graham | Aug 7, 2008 9:38:10 PM

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