Oklahoma County Jail

A 64-year-old man awaiting trial on drug and gun charges in the Oklahoma County Jail died on Tuesday after being transferred to a hospital and testing positive for COVID-19.

Clarence Merrell had been diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses including COPD. Jail staff say he was transferred to the jail’s medical unit the day he entered the jail because he’d been having trouble breathing.

Jail administrator Greg Williams says Merrell was eventually sent to the hospital where he tested positive for COVID-19.

The exact cause of Merrell’s death has yet to be determined.

At least 33 prisoners in the Oklahoma County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19 and the jail has quarantined over 500 prisoners as a precaution.

The increase in COVID-19 cases comes after the jail’s new administration increased testing.

Jail Administrator Greg Williams believes there was only one known COVID case when the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority took charge of the jail from the county Sheriff’s Office on July 1.

"That’s what the staff and the inmates are telling me is that we’re doing a lot more testing," Williams said.

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel about the rally for President Trump coming up on Saturday at the BOK Center in Tulsa and the Norman City Council votes to redistribute $865,000 from the police department to other services.

Jobs For Felons Hub / Flickr

There are signs COVID-19 is spreading in Oklahoma's county jails. Over 100 prisoners have tested positive in Comanche County and one state prisoner sent to Grady County died from the disease. But, it’s still unclear how far the illness has spread in jails, because testing is limited.

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel about a push to change the way Oklahomans draw political districts by putting it in the hands of an independent committee rather than politicians, the Oklahoma County Sheriff plans to hand over control of the jail to a newly formed trust whether it's ready or not and the attorney general meets with tribal leaders to discuss gaming compacts.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma County’s jail is run by the local sheriff, just like most counties in the state.

As news headlines about overcrowding, inmate deaths, lawsuits and maintenance issues became increasingly common, county officials and civic leaders called for a change in jail leadership.

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and sitting in for Ryan Kiesel is ACLU Oklahoma Director of Policy and Advocacy Nicole McAfee. They discuss the call by Governor Stitt to remove Glen Johnson as Higher Education Chancellor, a claim by QuikTrip of an increase in property thefts since State Question 780 was passed by voters and the Cherokee Tribe pointing to a nearly 200 year old treaty in calling for representation in Congress.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Control of the state’s largest county jail could be placed under the authority of a public-private trust according to a plan considered Thursday by an Oklahoma County advisory group.

Members of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council voted to recommend county commissioners consider a draft proposal to give oversight of the Oklahoma County Jail’s operations to a trust made up of one county commissioner, the county sheriff and seven private citizens.

Under the proposal, the seven appointees would be chosen by the county’s three commissioners.

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel about a $270M settlement between Oklahoma and Purdue Pharma with the lion share of the money going to OSU's Health Center in Tulsa, the leader of the Senate forms a working group on Cost of Living Adjustment for state retirees and a number of issues have recently arisen at county jails including Nowata, Washington and Oklahoma.

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel about the passage in the House of a bill allowing anyone over the age of 21 to carry a gun without a license or training, the State of Oklahoma loses 30,000 teachers in just five years and medical marijuana sales exceed $4M in January.

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