OKLAHOMA CITY – Comanche County officials are in discussions with Lawton city executives and with Tillman County about temporarily confining some inmates who otherwise would be incarcerated in the Comanche County Detention Center.
A high-level huddle was held Monday morning to discuss the issue. Participants included Lawton Mayor Stan Booker, City Manager Michael Cleghorn, and Police Chief James Smith; Comanche County Commissioners Johnny Owens, Gail Turner and Alvin Cargill; William Hobbs, administrator of the Comanche County Detention Center (CCDC); state Attorney General Mike Hunter; and Duncan native Jari Askins, a former state legislator, former lieutenant governor, former executive director of the state Pardon and Parole Board, and now administrator of the state courts.
The CCDC is overcrowded and coping with a severe outbreak of the coronavirus.
LAWTON CITY, TILLMAN COUNTY JAILS WOULD HOUSE INMATES FOR CCDC
Commissioner Cargill said that since State Health Commissioner Gary Cox imposed a 14-day quarantine on the CCDC last weekend, the jail can accept no new prisoners.
Consequently, a proposed agreement provides that anyone arrested by the Law- ton Police Department for a felony offense will, for a limited period of time, be held in the city jail rather than be transferred to the county jail.
Hunter said it would be permissible for the CCDC to allow some of its inmates to be lodged in the city jail temporarily, but he recommended that the two governmental units first draft a formal agreement.
Mayor Booker said a few wrinkles in the proposal still need to be ironed out.
The municipal jail can accommodate a maximum of 72 inmates; the jail population Monday numbered 23, none of whom had been infected with the coronavirus, the Ledger was told.
Meanwhile, Comanche County officials also have held discussions with their counterparts in neighboring Tillman County about “taking 20 to 25 of our new inmates” for a limited time, Turner said Sunday and Cargill confirmed Monday.
State Rep. Daniel Pae, R-Lawton, said Monday the Health Department and county officials are trying to complete testing on all inmates and staff members in the CCDC “to identify the complete scope of the epidemic.”
The county wants to “move inmates as soon as possible if they are not COVID-positive,” Pae said. For example, county and detention center officials “are moving up the release dates of inmates who are subject to early release,” he said.
Pae said he is confident that inmates who are released have been or will be tested before their discharge from the CCDC. “I think they would be tested before release, certainly,” he said.
The lawmaker said he doesn’t know exactly when the early releases will occur.
Thirty-two CCDC inmates were released recently, and five of them tested positive, said Brandie Combs, Region 5 director for the State Health Department. “They are isolated at their homes and are being monitored,” she said.
An inmate who has discharged his/her sentence cannot be held any longer in the detention center, even if he or she tests positive for the coronavirus, and must be released, Ms. Combs said. Upon an inmate’s release from the CCDC “they are a citizen and are under orders to isolate at home, and nurses track their whereabouts,” she said.
SPACE AVAILABLE IN OTHER COUNTY
JAILS Besides the Tillman County jail, space is available in other southwest Oklahoma jails, too, the Ledger learned Monday.
In neighboring Cotton County, the jail has a maximum capacity of 30 inmates. The facility held nine inmates Monday, none of whom had the coronavirus.
The Jackson County jail has a maximum capacity of 172 (includes the booking area, isolation and a restricted housing unit); the jail held 127 inmates Monday.
The Greer County jail can house more than prisoners in four single cells and two housing units, each of which has 20 bunks. On Monday, the jail held 10 inmates.
Stephens County’s jail has a 162-bed capacity and was at maximum capacity Monday, with no COVID-19 cases The jail has segregated units for men and women.
Caddo County Sheriff Spencer Davis said no COVID-19 cases have been reported in the Caddo County jail. He said he will “get with the commissioners soon” to discuss possible situations if a prisoner admitted to the facility is infected with the coronavirus.
Davis said he was told that there are more than 60 confirmed COVID cases in quarantine at the Great Plains Correctional Center in Hinton. A spokesman for the prison couldn’t be reached for comment Monday, although the Ledger placed a telephone call and sent an email.
Contributing to this story were Mike W. Ray, Michael Carrier and Tim Farley.