Kay County Detention Center staff avoids charges despite evidence of inmate mistreatment
NEWKIRK, Okla. (KOKH) —
No criminal charges will be filed against staff of the Kay County Detention Center (KCDC), despite a finding that some inmates were not treated in a legal manner while at the jail. The case was assigned to Washington County District Attorney Kevin Buchanan after a FOX 25 Investigation revealed the practice known in the KCDC as “Crucifixion” cuffing.
The punishment was used on at least one inmate. The inmate was cuffed with his hands spread as far apart as possible and he was kept in that position until his writes began to bleed.
“[Crucifixion cuffing] is not that dissimilar from the rack, an old torture means used in medieval Europe,” ACLU-OK Legal Director Brady Henderson told FOX 25 in May. “The concept is just to painfully stretch somebody and in this case instead of wanting them to talk or wanting them to do a particular thing you are doing it as a punishment.”
“The practice described could arguably fit the definition” of “cruel or inhuman” or “corporal” punishment wrote Buchanan in a letter declining to file charges. Buchanan also noted that a jury could find someone guilty of a misdemeanor under these circumstances. However, “Other than persons actually responsible for putting on the handcuffs, anyone else will claim to have no specific knowledge of the practice or not to have recognized what was occurring if they happened to witness it,” Buchanan wrote.
Buchanan also reviewed the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation report on another incident at the KCDC that was part of the FOX 25 Investigation. According to Buchanan’s letter a jail administrator ordered jailers to move two black inmates into an area “populated with white gang members.”
“In the instance of moving two African-American inmates into the white gang section of the facility, I will not argue that a bad outcome was predictable,” Buchanan wrote. However, he said the person responsible was fired from the jail and it would be difficult to prove jail director Don Jones had any knowledge of these actions before they happened.
Buchanan found that no investigation was done of the incident and all video related to the incident was missing or destroyed. The jail blames the lack of an investigation on an employee who is now deceased.
The letter references conflicting statements given by Jones as part of the investigation.
In an email exchange with a board member discussing claims by the injured inmate’s brother that he had not received treatment for his stab wound, Jones wrote "He was stabbed...can see on video. Got a crap load of medical documentation. Last tues [sic] went for his 2nd or 3rd out of jail doctor visit.”
However, when FOX 25 asked about what happened, Jones denied a stabbing occurred.
“He was not stabbed, autocorrect must have got my correct, or my uh email,” Jones told FOX 25 after a meeting of the jail trust in May.
“I do feel compelled to comment on what is an obvious culture from the leadership of the facility to cover up mistakes or outright improper behavior and/or policy violations,” Buchanan wrote. “Most importantly, employees who have come forward and pointed out such events in an effort to protect inmates or the facility have been met with demotion or termination. This attitude is not in the best interest of the Facility or the Citizens of Kay County.”
The ACLU of Oklahoma told FOX 25 in May they were conducting their own investigation that could result in a federal civil rights lawsuit.
Kay County District Attorney Brian Hermanson would not comment on Buchanan’s decision. He also would not answer questions from FOX 25 about whether he would ask the KCDC to preserve evidence of questionable incidents in the future.
FOX 25 also emailed questions about the findings to KCDC Director Don Jones and the facility’s attorney but did not hear back prior to publication.