MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

December 8, 2012

New jail needed in Wagoner County

Sheriff: Problems with design, upkeep of center

By Dylan Goforth
Phoenix Staff Writer

— While Muskogee County/City Detention Center officials are seeking ways to improve their facilities, another area jail is facing the same quandary.

Wagoner County Sheriff Bob Colbert said though the Wagoner County Detention Center is just 9 years old, it’s in drastic need of a fix.

“It’s a maze,” Colbert said. “An absolute maze. You can’t get from Point A to Point B.”

Colbert said when the jail was built, the then-sheriff had “very little input in its design.”

“It’s clear it was designed by someone with no background in law enforcement,” Colbert said. “Now, we’re already having problems with locks and doors, and pipes going bad. And when the pipes go bad, we have to pay extra to run the piping outside, because everything’s buried in concrete.”

Colbert said he believed Wagoner County Commissioners were in agreement: “Let’s build a new jail offsite and give this existing space to the courthouse.”

Colbert’s idea is grand in scope. The current jail could be turned into “very secure” office space for the courthouse.

“If there’s a tornado siren, you wouldn’t even have to leave your desk,” Colbert said.

The offsite facility would house more inmates than the current jail, which holds 152 prisoners, but usually averages about 80 to 90. It could also hold juvenile inmates, who Colbert has to pay other facilities to hold. At $40 to $50 per day, along with food and travel costs, that adds up, Colbert said.

Colbert also said he would like the new facility to have space for a garden, which would be tended by prisoners, as well as an animal shelter. Inmates would be responsible for caring for stray animals, a marriage Colbert said would help everyone involved.

In 2011, the Wagoner jail housed a cat program, Colbert said. The women’s wing at the jail provided care for the town’s stray cat population, nursing them back to health and eventually adopting them out.  

“I think we adopted out more than 100 cats,” Colbert said.

The program helped inmates learn responsibility, Colbert said, as well as preparing the animals for adoption.

“Before my term is up, I’d like to get land ready and fenced, and get a shelter built,” Colbert said. “If we secure the land and get it started, get the building plans approved, it will be moving along.

“If we could get a 300-bed single-story facility, we could almost be self-sufficient, which should be the goal.”

Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or dgoforth

@muskogeephoenix.com.