The Duncan Banner

July 30, 2013

Two Stephens County jailers fired, charges filed

Sheriff conducts internal investigation

Mike Smith
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN —  Two detention officers at the Stephens County Jail have been fired and face criminal charges for allegedly conspiring to bring tobacco to an inmate, and more action could be taken pending an investigation into jail activities by the Stephens County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Wayne McKinney disclosed the firings and investigation Monday after getting approval from the Board of Stephens County Commissioners to hire eight more detention officers at the jail.

McKinney said the additional jailers, which could cost nearly $300,000 per year in salary and benefits according to a commissioner’s figures, were needed because of a high inmate population and safety concerns. It was not related to the firings or investigation, he said.

“It’s something we feel we need immediately,” he said.

Before asking for more jailers, McKinney and Stephens County District Attorney Jason Hicks met privately with county commissioners to discuss a pending investigation and possible litigation involving the jail.

McKinney would not disclose many details of that matter, citing possible litigation, but did say the investigation is being handled internally by his office and not an outside agency.

He said it was possible more jailers could be fired and more charges filed pending the investigation, or it was possible nothing more would happen, but would not comment further.

Commissioner Chairman Dee Bowen declined to comment on the matter.

McKinney said the two jailers were arrested, charged and fired on the same day several weeks ago for conspiracy to bring contraband into the jail.

He identified them as Desiree Spence, 26, of Duncan, and Justin Cloud, 25, of Duncan.

According to court documents, each of them faces one misdemeanor count of conspiring to bring contraband into a jail stemming from an incident on May 6. The charge is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $500 fine.

Each of them pleaded not guilty on July 25 and is free on $1,000 bond.

According to probable cause affidavits, Spence gave Cloud some money that he used to buy a can of snuff for an inmate.

McKinney told commissioners he needed more jailers because of other reasons.

 He said the jail population has been averaging about 183 per day, which is above a capacity level of 162, and three of about 25 jailers are sidelined now.

Two are out for workers compensation reasons and one is serving in Afghanistan.

Those positions remain open for the return of those detention officers, but more officers are needed, McKinney said.

“Now with the increased population we feel we are creating a significant risk for employees and inmates,” McKinney said.

The added jailers will put two more officers on duty per 12-hour shift, McKinney said. There are about five officers per shift now.

Commissioner Lonnie Estes said the jailers would make about $3,100 per month in salary and benefits, which collectively would be about $297,600 per year.

There were 198 inmates at the jail as of Monday morning, which likely would dwindle some by the end of the day as some people arrested over the weekend were processed by the courts, McKinney said.

Although maximum capacity is 162, the average per day over the past three years has been 183. McKinney has said that when he took office in early 2009 after winning his first term as sheriff, the average was about 100.

 The sheriff has made no apologies in the past for the increased numbers and offered none on Monday.

“We are putting people in jail who need to be in jail,” said McKinney, who easily won a second, four-year term in the November 2012 election.

McKinney said although jail capacity is 162, accommodations have been made to house the higher numbers.

“If there was a strict limit on that (capacity number), there wouldn’t be a jail open in Oklahoma,” he said.

But, he said, “We have got to get our staffing level up.”