Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office Takes Coronavirus Precautions
Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office detailed their efforts to reduce the possibility of COVID-19 spread in and outside of the Oklahoma County Jail to Oklahoma County Commissioners in a special meeting Monday afternoon.
The office is following recommendations from the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, Turn Key Health Clinics and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.
“We are receiving hourly updates through the health department and the CDC,” said Gene Bradley, assistant jail administrator for the Oklahoma County Jail. “The American Correctional Association and National Commission on Correctional Healthcare have jumped on board with a lot of information for jails and correctional facilities.”
Bradley said the National Sheriff’s Association has been giving them up to date changes and the best practice information and solutions.
Since the beginning of March, the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s office has been working on a preventative plan that also minimized the fears associated with COVID-19.
On March 2, the detention center sent an email to the entire agency regarding information pertaining to the coronavirus, stressing CDC and Oklahoma City-County Health Department recommendations.
The Sheriff’s Office public information officer placed information about COVID-19 on an electronic information board at the staff entrance of the facility to ensure they stay aware of new developments.
“Recently we have placed signs at the public entrance asking the public if they have any of the symptoms on the list to please reschedule any business that they may have in the facility,” Bradley said.
Corrections staff has been encouraged to stay home and follow up with their primary care physician if they show signs of illness.
A spokesperson with Turn Key, a contract entity that provides jail medical services in a pre-screen area, said medical professionals have a set of questions that they go through set by guidelines with the CDC regarding traveling and symptoms of coronavirus.
“If someone is symptomatic, which would be fever, cough, shortness of breath, if they have been out of the country or exposed to someone who has had it, then they would gather that information and call a provider on call who would make the determination whether that person would be sent to the hospital for a screening or put in isolation at that time,” according to the spokesperson.
There was some concern by commissioners regarding the jail’s capacity for isolation.
“Currently we have got seven cells that are reverse air cells, specifically for isolation,” Bradley said. “Fortunately, with renovation and the lowering population, we have got two pods that are available to do large scale isolation as well.”
According to Bradley, each pod has 50 cells and there are two pods, making a total of 107 cells with the inclusion of the seven reverse air cells.
Bradley said he thinks the measures in place will suffice for the time being.
“We had a tabletop exercise involving Commissioner [Carrie] Blumert and the city health department was there; as far as I know, they felt comfortable,” Bradley said.
Oklahoma County Sheriff P.D. Taylor said there is currently no need for temporary lease contracting with any other facility to provide for more isolation cells, and there is a process if someone comes into the intake with symptoms.
“We are not refusing to accept anyone,” Taylor said. “We actually have someone currently in isolation at this time; they were sent to the hospital and under the recommendation of the hospital are currently in isolation.”
OCSO Major Jim Anderson said in terms of response, their biggest concern is the close proximity of inmates.
“We have some plans and have sent out some information to our people that are out taking calls and impacting the public every day serving papers, lockouts, exit orders, things of that nature,” Anderson said.
If the office can do business over the phone, such as take reports, burglary reports or larceny, Anderson said they will.
“It’s not going to impact our efforts in terms of anything that has a nexus of safety, if someone is being assaulted we are going, if someone has been assaulted we’re going,” Anderson said. “Situations where someone has to go to jail, if certain criteria exist, we are going to work through those things the best we can.”
Anderson is urging officers to keep themselves clean, keep their cars clean and interact outside if they can.
“Just simple things like not bringing someone into their car during a traffic stop to talk to them and things of that nature,” Anderson said.
As of now, there is no prioritization of warrants by the OCSO, although Anderson said they aren’t putting effort into looking for those with outstanding warrants currently.
“Incidental contact, traffic stops, if we make a call and someone is a problem, we run everyone that is there and an arrest may be made there in that way, but our warrant squad only goes after violent crime,” Anderson said.
At this time, Anderson said there is not a way they can do sign and release as it is a municipal issue.
“I can tell you with misdemeanors and things of that nature, we have a little bit of officer discretion, and that is something that we probably need to have a discussion with legal counsel, the district attorneys office, the presiding judge before I comment on what we can and can’t do,” Anderson said.
Oklahoma County Commissioner Chairman Kevin Calvey urged the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office to preserve the jail for “dangerous people that need to be in jail no matter what rather than FTA’s (failure to appear) and warrants and things like that.”
Calvey asked that the OCSO work with the district courts so adjustments could be made on a temporary basis.
The Oklahoma County Jail is a 268,000-square-foot facility with a rated capacity for 2,890 inmates.
In a tweet last week, OSCO said it would be suspending in-person visits and tours, and provided information on how to schedule a video visit.