Arguments Continue Over Running The Tulsa County Jail

Friday, July 24th 2015, 7:20 pm
By: Emory Bryan

The county authority that oversees Tulsa's jail wants bids on privatizing it, even as arguments continue over how to manage the place now.

The sheriff runs the jail, but the Jail Authority manages it - and city and county leaders on the authority can't agree on who pays for what; but they are close to deciding to get an outside opinion on costs from one of the private companies that run jails.

The Criminal Justice Authority still can’t agree on finances at the jail, where cost continues to go over budget.

With the draft of an agreement on the table, Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett wanted more time for lawyers to look it over, which was strongly objected by County Commissioner John Smaligo.

7/17/2015 Related Story: Tulsa Jail Authority Members Frustrated With Mayor Bartlett

“You had the document for a month; it is time to take action,” he said.

Bartlett said, "I think we owe it to the public to let them take a look at it and not just make a decision today.”

Smaligo said, “So let’s sit down Monday, for as long as it takes.”

Bartlett said, "I doubt we can do it by Monday, but we can certainly do it quickly."

“You can't do it by Monday, maybe not next week, maybe not next month. Delay, delay, delay," said Smaligo.

The delay in making a deal has both Tulsa and Sand Springs thinking of suing the Jail Authority over spending; and while that's unsettled, the trustees agree, for now, they should take bids on running the jail - which would have the sheriff bidding against private companies.

Read The Interlocal Cooperative Jail Financing Agreement

"Some other operator who believes they can run it for less money than the sheriff's office does currently," said Smaligo.

Bartlett said, "This is a great way for the private sector and the public sector to look at how this jail can be operated and managed."

But talk of a return to privatization, which was tried when the jail first opened, concerns the staff there now working for the sheriff.

"It's disheartening to see them worry about what's going to happen," said Chief Deputy Michelle Robinette, TCSO.

No final decisions were made on privatization or a new contract, so as it's been for a year, the talks continue.