Comanche County sheriff ready to give up on jail

Tuesday, October 2nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LAWTON, Okla. (AP) _ The population of the Comanche County Jail is growing rather than shrinking, even as the county is under a mandate to decrease the number of inmates in lockup.

Sheriff Kenny Stradley says he's nearly ready to give up.

``I've rode this horse before,'' he said. ``I'm going to do everything I can, but when it comes down to it all I'm going to tell them is to get a bus and come load them up.''

The state fire marshal's office gave county officials 10 days to decrease the population to 104. The deadline is Friday.

The jail had 155 inmates Monday, seven more than it had when the fire marshal's office issued a 10-day order to clean up code violations by reducing population or risk closing.

The sheriff said Lawton police brought him 10 more prisoners during the weekend.

The jail, built in 1970, has housed up to 229 inmates at one time and has been under the scrutiny of state fire and health officials.

Stradley and Comanche County Commissioner Gail Turner said they're exploring several options, including working with the district attorney on reducing sentences, moving inmates to other county jails and housing minimum-security inmates in an empty county building in Lawton.

A 262-bed jail under construction won't be ready for at least another year, county officials said.

Conditions at the jail, where inmates without beds sleep on floor mats, are breaking fire and health codes. Three ``tank'' cells are holding up to 17 inmates at a time.

State fire inspector Ed Chappell said the office is prepared to ask for a court order to shut the jail down Friday if inmate numbers aren't reduced. But he said state officials will negotiate with the county if there is some reduction in inmate population and the county has a plan for further reduction.

``We're not asking them at all to let people out on the street who should be in jail,'' Chappell said. ``But the safety level is not there. Certainly people are put in a dangerous situation.''