prison system

Oklahoma Department of Corrections

There were at least 504 COVID-19 cases inside just one state prison on Friday, with nearly 900 prisoners across the state infected with the disease and hundreds of test results are still pending.

Allison Herrera / KOSU

COVID-19 is spiraling into more state prisons. The total number of infected prisoners reached nearly 400 on Thursday, with nearly 3,000 prisoners are in quarantine and over 1,000 tests are still pending.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections declared three prisons as COVID-19 hot spots: Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft, Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud and Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington.

Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council

Last week, a criminal justice advisory group in Oklahoma County reported that in the 2020 fiscal year, the county jail’s prisoner population reached its lowest levels in more than a decade.


Update: Oklahoma Department of Corrections has updated their COVID case numbers since this  was first posted. The new numbers are reflected below.

As of Tuesday morning, 362 state prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week.

Protesters on Monday pushed the Oklahoma County Jail Trust to postpone a discussion and potential vote on how to use more than $36 million in coronavirus relief funding until it hears from the public.

The protesters were angry most of the federal relief funds were recommended to be spent on the jail during a recent county budget board meeting.


Despite controversy and legal concerns, Oklahoma County will allot nearly all of its coronavirus relief funding to its jail.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The pandemic is making the already difficult process of building a new life after prison even more challenging. Government offices in charge of issuing legal identification closed at the start of the pandemic and now they’re taking longer than usual to deliver documents many former prisoners need to get jobs.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections reports 132 of its prisoners are infected with COVID-19.

The latest outbreak was at Cimarron Correctional Facility, a private prison in Cushing. The outbreak was discovered after a prisoner with symptoms tested positive for COVID at the end of last month. Shortly after multiple prisoners tested positive.

Department of Corrections data shows as of Friday, 21 prisoners inside the private prison had COVID and 103 others were in quarantine.

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.