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Miscommunication over head count creates friction between county commissioner, jail staff

KOKH

OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) - Some unexpected visitors showed up to the Oklahoma County Jail over the weekend leading to a dispute between a county commissioner and the Sheriff's Office.

According to emails by the commissioner's office, the visit was planned on Friday requesting to view the breakfast food service Saturday morning.

One email obtained by FOX 25 said: "We would like to tag along with the lunch service. How many people are serving food and at what time?"

On Saturday, 16 police officers, Commissioner Kevin Calvey and a district judge arrived at the county jail to allegedly complete a head count of inmates.

"We can't just have people wandering around a maximum security prison," said Mark Opgrande, public information officer for the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office.

"Certainly they could have let us do that. They allow people in the jail all the time," said Calvey.

Calvey said the Sheriff's Office was aware they were coming to do the head count.

Another email sent from the commissioner's office to the Sheriff's Office said: "We were hoping to have a person accompany each person delivering food and to check the inmates names off of our list. How many people will you have delivering food?"

"He's trying to say he didn't know. That's not true," said Calvey.

Opgrande told FOX 25 Tuesday that to his knowledge, there was no mention of any type of head count to be done.

"If that’s something you want to do and you want to bring a group of eighteen people to do that, let us know and we’ll make staff available," said Opgrande.

Opgrande said it's a huge security risk to bring in that many people without having the proper amount of staff there.

"We're talking about bringing outside people in here that have no idea the layout, how the system works, how you get in and out of the cell areas, how to respond to certain areas, who to call, don't have a radio or something if they need help. Those are issues we all need to be concerned about when somebody goes into a pod with 80 inmates in there," said Opgrande.

Calvey said arguing it's a security risk makes him speechless.

"You should have seen the size of these police officers there. They were way bigger than the sheriff's deputies and could break those inmates in half," said Calvey.

Calvey said he wanted to complete a head count to make sure inmates weren't getting lost in the system.

"We hoped we would find that it (the head count) matched up. If it didn't, we would work with the sheriff's department to ask 'Why isn't it matching up? What processes can we do better so that we don't have this happen?'" said Calvey.

Calvey said inmates have been lost in the prison system for months.

"I think that all stems from, there were a few incidents in the past that happened a couple months apart that, where an individual may have gotten lost in the system. That was a situation where an order was not sent over to our agency in order to get that person released," said Opgrande.

"In order for someone to get released, we don't just let them out because they say they're not supposed to be here," said Opgrande. "We need to have a signed order from a judge saying this person has a bond, this person has an order of release, this person, maybe charges haven't been filed. That is filed from the court to our office."

Opgrande said once his office receives that paperwork, they can pull the inmate out and have them released.

"If we don't get that or receive that, which, what I've been told happened in these two separate cases, we don't know that they're not supposed to be here. So that's incumbent to the other side over there to make sure they're giving us the proper paperwork so we can get these individuals out of here."

Opgrande said officers complete two head counts a day.

"Sunlight is the best disinfectant. We will continue to shine a light on things going down. Too many people die in that jail. There's too many lawsuits against the county as a result of some of the deaths in the jail and things like that," said Calvey. "You're supposed to care for people, even those people who may be in jail. We shouldn't be treating them inhumanely, we shouldn't be keeping them there longer than what is allowed by law."

Calvey said he will continue to try to track the inmates and find out what can be done to make the system better.

"The county commissioner is free to come over here and inquire and ask and find out what's going on. We encourage that of all our elected officials," said Opgrande. "In those cases, we will make staff available. We'll bring staff in. That way, we can make sure everyone is safe and secure."



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