Okla. Prisons Remain On Lockdown Due To Gang Related Fights

Saturday, September 21st 2019, 10:25 pm
By: Erick Payne

Prisons across Oklahoma are still on lockdown after gang fights sent dozens of prisoners to the hospital last weekend.

27-year-old Chad Burns, a prisoner with convictions out of Tulsa County, died.

The Department of Corrections said the prisons will be locked down indefinitely until they decide it's safe to go back to normal.

Families said they understand the safety concerns, but believe some of those restrictions are too harsh for family members.

Right now, 28,000 prisoners are under a lockdown, confined to their cells. That includes Tracy Froelich's husband, Daniel Froelich.

"It's just been a very stressful week," Tracy said.

Daniel is in the Cimarron Correctional Facility in Cushing for robbery and drug possession.

Tracy said she and their kids haven't seen him in months, and were going to visit this weekend until the prisons went on lockdown.

"I understand the safety part of it, by all means. What I don't understand is how they can take the visitations and phone calls from the prisoners, to talk to their families on the outside," Tracy said.

The lockdown means Daniel, and all other prisoners, are kept in their cells, with staff bringing them food, water and medicine.

Matt Elliott with the Department of Corrections said investigators are working to figure out more about the fights, but know they started with a dispute between two gangs.

"Any time you deal with violence behind the wire it's a serious situation, obviously if we have incidents at half a dozen prisons in one weekend happening at relatively the same time, that's an extremely serious situation," Elliott said.

He said once they decide it's safe, they'll bring the prisons off lockdown -- but now isn't the time for that.

Tracy said it's a punishment that doesn't make sense to the majority of those in state custody who weren't involved in the violence.

"I mean, how is that fair for any prisoner? To be locked down 24/7," Tracy said. "It's crazy, they need to do something and get this under control, not just for my family, but for everybody."

In response, the Department of Corrections said they know this is a major inconvenience to some families -- but they're doing this lockdown for a reason.

They said it's not a punishment, and they wouldn't do this unless it was necessary to keep prisoners and staff safe.