On Tuesday, June 28, voters in Oklahoma County can solve a generational problem by approving a bond issue to replace our jail and do so without raising tax rates. I wholeheartedly believe now is the right time to do this and that we will have a better, safer criminal justice system when it is complete.
Our community has been thriving over the past 30 years due to our investment in ourselves. This is the next step. We simply must address the ongoing crisis at our county jail so we can move forward as a community.
Facilities alone can’t fix everything that ails our criminal justice system. That is why the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber formed a task force five years ago to begin evaluating what was driving overcrowding in our jail. We learned who was in our jail and why, and began creating solutions to make sure nonviolent offenders and those who could be moved into diversion and treatment programs were removed from the system. On average, there are 1,000 fewer people in our jail every day than there were before we began. There is still more work to do — and we should all keep pressure on the system for more improvements.
We also learned during these five years of work that we can’t fix the current jail facility or remodel it to support the future we all want for a fair, restorative criminal justice system in Oklahoma County. A new jail will have mental health and medical facilities that are purpose built and appropriately sized and resourced. The new jail will allow for direct supervision, increasing safety for both personnel and inmates. And importantly, the new jail will allow for integrating diversion, work training and other programs that are difficult or nonexistent due to the current jail’s design.
The simple fact is, we need a new jail to make our communities safer. The long-term solution to crime is to better intervene at earlier stages to get folks to break away from a life of crime. The new jail will do just that.
By Roy Williams via The Oklahoman – June 24, 2022
There is once again a way to get a look inside the Oklahoma County Jail without working there or being arrested.
Tours have resumed at the jail after being shut down throughout the pandemic.
They call it a jail tour immersion experience. The people who put it on believe that by showing taxpayers how bad the Oklahoma County Jail is, they will agree a new jail is needed.
By KOCO / Evan Onstot – June 14, 2022
Though the circumstances that have led us to this moment in our history as a community are somewhat complex, my message this month is pretty simple. If you are a resident of Oklahoma County, I ask you to vote “yes” on June 28 to build a new county jail.
By Roy Williams – June 13, 2022
VeloCity: You have been involved in criminal justice reform for some time. Why is now the right time to move forward with replacing our jail?
Clay Bennett: For six years, we have been working to really understand our system. We found that we were keeping too many people in the jail for the wrong reasons. We also found the system was not functioning efficiently, so many times people were kept longer than needed. We have reduced the daily population by about 1,000 people. At the same time, we now have a better understanding of the programs necessary to serve the population better, and to continue to reduce incarceration. We now know what type of jail, and size of jail, our community needs. I also think this process has given our community a better understanding of the need for a different approach to criminal justice, which we can implement more effectively with this new facility. Fortunately, we also have a situation where an expiring tax allows us to make this move without raising taxes.
By Chamber Staff – June 7, 2022
The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber announced today the formation of the Fix The Jail campaign to encourage passage of a county bond issue to build a new county jail and detention center.
The resolution calls for a $260 million bond issue to fund the construction. These bonds would take the place of retiring bonds and could be sold without increasing the rate of property taxes for residents.
Clay Bennett, Chairman of the Oklahoma City Thunder, is leading the effort. “Our community has worked together to make great strides in reducing incarceration in our county jail, and while there is more work to do, none of that work will fix the inherent problems with our current facility. We cannot put this decision off any longer,” he said.
By Chamber Staff – FixTheJail.com – May 3, 2022
Over the past few years, we’ve had the privilege and great responsibility to lead our community’s response to the major challenges of our criminal justice system here in Oklahoma County.
Now it is time to address the jail facility itself, and the pending expiration of existing county bonds will allow us to build a new facility without a tax increase.
We know who needs to be in our jail and who does not. We need a facility that functions efficiently so people are not unnecessarily detained, and that those who are dangerous have a place to be held pre-trial. This new facility will ensure our public safety, provide for job training, mental health treatment and more. This is the right facility at the right time. Join us in voting YES on June 28 to finally fix the jail.
By Roy Williams – VeloCityOKC.com – April 18, 2022
County officials say the jail’s design flaws and persistent maintenance issues make renovation an unrealistic proposition. They argue a new jail, complete with designated mental health and medical units, would help reduce deaths and bring the county in compliance with state and federal standards.
By Keaton Ross – Oklahoma Watch – April 13, 2022
Following recommendations of the Vera Institute for Justice in 2015, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber began working with city and county leaders to solve overcrowding problems at the Oklahoma County Detention Center. Today, overcrowding has continued trending downward, thanks in large part to diversion programs created or adopted in Oklahoma City.
“If you don’t remember anything else, I want you to know this: People can change,” Judge Stoner said. “Your past does not have to equal your future. And we have the right programs to meet the needs of those individuals.”
Tardibono echoed those sentiments, especially as Oklahoma County gets closer to hopefully building a new county jail, which will alleviate most, if not all, of the things that has plagued the facility for years.
“We know treatment works. Rehabilitation works. People can be redeemed and restored and moved in the right direction. I think in Oklahoma, a lot of times we don’t believe that. So, I think it’s important that we keep our focus on diversion programs,” he said.
“These services are going to help us stay in a better-sized jail, and for those of you who are Oklahoma County voters, you will be getting that opportunity, hopefully, this summer. A ‘yes’ vote on a jail construction would really be helpful to help us move more people out of the jail and into these programs,” Tardibono said.
By Harve Allen – VeloCityOKC.com – April 8, 2022
Oklahoma County Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to send a $260 million bond vote to the people in an election scheduled for June 28, the next step toward building a new Oklahoma County jail to replace the troubled and sometimes dangerous current facility.
The commissioners approved several agenda items related to issuing new general obligation limited tax bonds that will hold millage rates steady for county residents when the current bonds expire, while still funding the jail.
By JaNae Williams – Oklahoman.com – April 5, 2022
These bonds would take the place of retiring bonds and could be sold without increasing the rate of property taxes for residents. “The challenges of the Oklahoma County Jail are well documented,” said Roy Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.
By Chamber Staff – VeloCityOKC.com – April 4, 2022
“This is a historic day,” Calvey said before commissioners voted to set the June 28 election. “This is the biggest decision county government has made in years, if not decades. Probably over 20 years. We have a window of opportunity that this may be the only chance we have to improve the situation that is the current facility.”
Calvey said the current downtown jail is unsalvageable.
“You can’t fix 13 stories,” he said. “Just the design alone. There are many things in that jail that are just not fixable. It costs far more to operate than a better-designed jail. The jail we’re looking at is commensurate with other jails of communities our size. This is the reason why I ran for this office: to improve the situation at the jail.”
District 1 Commissioner Carrie Blumert said county residents are ready to act on fixing the jail.
“When I’m out knocking on doors and talking to voters, the majority of voters want us to fix this,” she said. “They’re just tired of hearing about how awful that building is. So like Commissioner Calvey, when I ran for this seat, that was a huge goal of mine, to figure this out. This is like moving the Titanic. We’re pushing a huge thing in a big direction, and I’m supporting this because I can’t sit here and not do anything about the current building. It does not meet our needs at all. We have to do better.”
District 2 Commissioner Brian Maughan said the bonds were a better way to fund a new facility than previous attempts, some of which included a sales tax proposal.
“I think this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fix this especially with how we’re trying to go about doing it without going to the taxpayers and asking them for a sales tax, which has been the frequently bandied about proposal in years past (and) which voters didn’t indicate they were willing to embrace,” Maughan said. “This continues on the (bond) rate that was previously agreed to by the voters.”
In a statement, Tardibono said it is time to solve a 30-year problem.
“This is the next step in the process of solving this problem and we are hopeful that Oklahoma County taxpayers will support this move and keep the process moving forward,” Tardibono said. “This vote is a vote to support public safety and to allow the community to solve this problem all without a property or sales tax increase.”
By Matt Patterson – NonDoc – April 4, 2022