, Muskogee, OK

June 23, 2013

County jails feel pinch of overcrowding

Associated Press

— TULSA (AP) — County jail officials in northeastern Oklahoma say they are dealing with the same staffing and crowding issues as the state prison system, which has reported prisons at 99 percent capacity.

Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz said last month that he would ask a judge to order the Department of Corrections to pick up the 260 state inmates in the county’s custody.

That number — at the Tulsa Jail or other county jails that Tulsa County pays to house inmates — had dropped to 164 state inmates as of Friday. Tulsa County pays several less-populated jails to keep inmates waiting to be transferred to the state system for $27 per inmate per day, which is the state rate.

“Some of them can actually make money at that rate,” Undersheriff Tim Albin told the Tulsa World.

The Rogers County Jail has space for 250 inmates, but that doesn’t mean it has enough beds, blankets or other necessities, Undersheriff John Sappington said.

“Whenever we hit 230 (inmates) during a warrant sweep last year, we were filled to the gills,” he said. “We also don’t have the staff to house 250 inmates. We’ve lost (staff) due to them walking back and seeing all the inmates and saying, ‘This isn’t for me.’”

Jail officials and sheriffs in Creek, Muskogee, Osage, Washington, Pawnee and Okmulgee counties also report jail crowding — in part because they’re also holding state inmates.

The backup of DOC-ready inmates is a daily battle, Muskogee County Sheriff Charles Pearson said. “They are saving lots of money off the backs of counties, and there is nothing we can do about it,” he said.

Jail superintendent Joe Hughart said the Muskogee County facility is usually over its 282-inmate capacity. To catch the overflow, the county pays Craig County to house some inmates in its jail.

As of Friday, the Muskogee County Jail had 287 inmates, including 48 DOC prisoners.

Inmates being held for the DOC also are contributing to Rogers County’s crowding issues. The county has about 50 state inmates.