Tulsa County Jail Authority Okays Additional Funds For Jail

Friday, August 30th 2013, 7:32 pm
By: Emory Bryan

The Tulsa County Jail has been overcrowded lately and a study of who is behind bars found a few who could probably go free.

When an outside consultant took a look at Tulsa County's jail, one of the first things they noticed was 8 people behind bars for having loose dogs. It's a low level offense, but if it's not resolved, it can end up with a trip to jail.

Keeping people like that out of jail was one of the first ideas to save money and space for the people who really need to be in jail.

It came up during a Friday meeting of the Tulsa County Jail Authority, which has ordered a more thorough look at jail operations.

The idea is to find every possible savings, either through better management of the jail or better judgment in who ends up inside.

"If the city chooses to lock up individuals who let their dogs run free, we'd certainly point that out and say there might be a better use of taxpayer money to find a way to punish those municipal violations," said John Smaligo, Tulsa County Commissioner.

The costs of running the Tulsa County Jail continue to rise, especially when it comes to medical care. The sheer number of inmates makes it more difficult. The jail population surged to almost 2,000 inmates this summer; before dropping back to just over 1,700 now.

4/12/2013 Related Story: Tulsa County Jail To Stop Accepting Some Prisoners Due To Overcrowding

The numbers dropped when authorities were forced to use more discretion on who goes in and who gets out.

"That's one of the things they brought up to us, is that when you have people in there for that insignificant of crimes, when you're overcrowded and facing a money shortfall, those are critical to our needs," said Tulsa County Sheriff's Office Major Shannon Clark.

The Tulsa County Jail Authority approved $135,000 to meet the most immediate needs beyond what's budgeted for the jail, but the authority wants outsiders to review everything, including what to do with 8 people who let their dogs run free.

"Certainly they'll be some savings regarding those 8 people, but probably there are 8 more people to replace them with more serious crimes," said Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett.

And that's the challenge, to keep people in for serious crimes and figuring out what to do about less serious offenders.