OKLAHOMA CITY — The U.S. Justice Department is planning to inspect an Oklahoma jail next year despite opposition from county commissioners.
An attorney in the department’s civil rights division wrote in November that they anticipate touring the Oklahoma County jail early next year, The Oklahoman reported . The decision comes after county commissioners voted unanimously to deny the department’s request to inspect the jail Nov. 6-10.
The 13-story jail opened in 1991. It came under federal oversight in 2009 after an investigation determined the jail had 60 civil rights violations. County officials disputed some findings but had agreed to make corrections.
A “compliance monitoring” tour was last conducted by the Justice Department in 2014.
Depending on the inspection’s results, the federal government could seek in court to take over the jail. The federal takeover likely would mean the required construction of a new jail, at a high cost to taxpayers.
District Attorney David Prater sent a letter to the Justice Department that said commissioners opposed the inspection. He suggested that federal officials “await developments.”
“The reform process initiated by the Department of Justice is still in progress and has impressive momentum,” the district attorney wrote. “The uncertain threat of future department involvement has been powerful in motivating reform and will continue to be — far much more so than an actual inspection.”
But Justice Department attorney Cathleen Trainor said in a written response that the tour will be conducted anyway, pursuant to the 2009 agreement, known as the Memorandum of Understanding.
“We appreciate your assurances that the county has made progress towards compliance, and understand that both the county and the state of Oklahoma are invested in reforming your justice system,” Trainor said.
Commissioners said they oppose the inspection because of concerns it will disrupt the implementation of new solutions to overcrowding and other issues at the facility.
Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com