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April 8, 2014

State inspectors say county jail is too crowded

DUNCAN — The Stephens County Jail is too crowded, according to state inspectors who have notified   Sheriff Wayne McKinney and county commissioners.

“I’m not surprised we got this letter,” McKinney said Monday. “Actually, I’m surprised we hadn’t gotten it before.”

The Stephens County Jail has climbed as high as 200 inmates in recent months, but on Monday it  was down to 158 inmates.

In a letter sent to McKinney and county commissioners,  inspectors provided ideas to rectify the situation. Among those ideas was transferring inmates to other county jails.

“The problem with that is they’re all full, too,” McKinney said.

The letter also discussed an early release program, which McKinney said is out of the hands of the commissioners and the Stephens County Sheriff’s Office.

Undersheriff John Smith said the Oklahoma Department of Corrections has opened its doors to take in prisoners to help with overcrowding at county jails. Smith said 20 to 25 prisoners have already been transferred from the Stephens County Jail to the Department of Corrections.

DOC’s ability to take more inmates is the result of the state prison system reopening several prisons, including one in Tahlequah.

“Even if we get rid of 5 or 10 DOC inmates, they’ll be replaced,” McKinney said. “It’s a sign of the times.”

McKinney said the Stephens County Jail is often praised by the jail inspectors for various facets of the jail, but overcrowding has become a reality for the facility.

“Our jail has not gotten written up for how we treat our prisoners,” McKinney said. “We’ve always been regarded highly for our cleanliness. We will probably be written up by the State Fire Marshal’s Office for overcrowding.”

He said he won’t make excuses for the overcrowding situation, but acknowledged his office is working on a plan to reduce overcrowding. The idea has been in the works for a few months, McKinney said.

Although the plan wasn’t ready to be revealed, he said it will be presented to the commissioners in a future meeting.

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