Rogers Co. Jail Overcrowded

Wednesday, June 17th 2009, 10:49 pm
By: News On 6

By Jennifer Loren, The News On 6

CLAREMORE, OK -- There is now overcrowding at the Rogers County jail.  The jail is crammed full of inmates.  It's gotten so bad they're having to release some misdemeanor inmates without any jail time.  The News On 6 toured the jail on Wednesday with the Rogers County Sheriff who says something's got to give.

"We've got people in here that have been in here literally over 500 days, a few of the worst," said Sheriff Scott Walton.

Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton has been on the job since January.  Since then, he's gotten a crash course in jail overpopulation.

"We've got a capacity of 202 and at this moment, and this could change at any given time.  We have 208 inmates in our jail right now," said Sheriff Scott Walton.

That's ten fewer than on Tuesday.

The holding cells in the booking room are being used as isolation rooms.  The so-called drunk tank is stacked nine deep.  Some of these inmates are not drunk.  They're serving real time, but needed to be separated from the rest of the population.

Walton says the crowded jail creates more problems.

"Becomes safety concerns for the workers, inmates learn when workers are disadvantaged by numbers," said Sheriff Scott Walton.

For many of the inmates, their court cases are holding them up.  Some are waiting to be moved to state prisons.  But, Walton says the biggest factor in the overpopulation is the rising population of Rogers County. 

"Certainly no one person is to blame. We just have to look at this as a problem that everyone that's a user of the criminal justice system has to focus on and hopefully sometime soon come up with some reasonable, workable results," said Sheriff Scott Walton.

For now, that means turning away misdemeanor arrests and getting the word out to everyone who uses the justice system.

"It takes everybody that uses this system, to be part of it to understand that we do have a problem. This is not only the jail's concern or the sheriff's concern. It's the community's concern," said Sheriff Scott Walton.

Sheriff Walton says if Rogers County's population continues to grow, so will the inmate population at the jail.  Eventually, they're going to need more space.