Roger Mills County Jail Control Room

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Counties hope to keep jail populations low during viral pandemic

  • Quinton Chandler

During a viral pandemic jail administrators want fewer prisoners, not more.

To help, some district courts are issuing orders to decrease their county jail populations in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to a Tulsa World report, Tulsa County District Court ordered the releasesof nearly 70 people charged with both misdemeanors and felonies last week.

Orders from Cleveland County district judges have helped reduce their jail population by nearly 15%.

Jail administrators hope the releases will keep the counties’ jail populations under capacity during the pandemic.

Officials in Oklahoma County are also trying to free more of their prisoners who aren’t considered dangerous.

But Oklahoma County and some other jurisdictions may face another challenge.

The Department of Corrections has stopped accepting new prisoners from local jails, which could contribute to overcrowding at a time when counties are trying to keep populations low.

Oklahoma County’s jail population is lower than it’s been in years, but the jail is still overcrowded. Currently, the jail holds more than 170 people who’ve been convicted and sentenced to state prison.

Commenting on the prison agency’s decision, Oklahoma County sheriff’s spokesperson Mark Myers said the state is in uncharted territory and all agencies are doing what they think is best to keep people safe.

Local police are trying to help the county sheriff’s office keep the jail population under control by not arresting people who aren’t public safety threats.

It’s unclear when the Department of Corrections will restart intakes.