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Oklahoma County jail fails another inspection, refuses to let health department inside

The Oklahoma County Detention Center in west downtown Oklahoma City, Okla.
Ryan LaCroix
The Oklahoma County Detention Center in west downtown Oklahoma City, Okla.

The Oklahoma County jail has failed its ninth-straight health inspection since the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority took over operations in 2020.

The latest failed inspection comes after jail staff refused to let the Oklahoma State Department of Health inside Tuesday morning.

According to the report from OSDH, jail staff told inspectors they didn’t have "enough staff to support the inspection process." The same situation occurred about two weeks ago when the Health Department showed up for an unannounced visit.

In a letter to OSDH obtained by KFOR-TV, Oklahoma County Assistant District Attorney Aaron Etherington claimed the Health Department overstepped its bounds.

Etherington wrote that OSDH lacked the authority to conduct an inspection unannounced, and that a notice of 10 days is required.

According to state statute, OSDH can perform inspections without any forewarning.

"An inspection, investigation, survey, or evaluation shall be either announced or unannounced," state statute says. "The State Board of Health shall promulgate rules determining the criteria when an inspection, investigation, survey or evaluation shall be unannounced or may be announced by the Department."

Problems have plagued the detention center for decades, so much so that the facility has been named as "one of the deadliest jails in America", according to an analysis by The Oklahoman.

Activists are calling for a criminal investigation into the jail’s leadership and for the U.S. Department of Justice to take control of the facility.

Nyk Daniels is KGOU’s Morning Edition host.
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