Tulsa Jail Again Releases Inmates by Mistake

Thursday, October 21st 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

For the second time in two months, Tulsa County Jail inmates have been released in error. The company that operates the David L. Moss Corrections Center, Corrections Corporation of America, says the incident Tuesday happened because employees failed to enter paperwork on the computer system.

44-year-old Jerry Fish was arrested on complaints of public drunkenness. 20-year-old Lamar Phillips was jailed for not paying overdue fines related to an old hit and run Phillips' mother claims his release was not a mistake because he had paid his fines.

C-C-A's spokesperson Marvin Branham says the company is looking into that possibility. Branham also addressed staffing issues. Former and current C-C-A employees tell the News on Six the jail is understaffed and safety of C-C-A employees is a big issue.

Branham says the jail currently keeps a ratio of three inmates for every one employee, and that ratio can never exceed four inmates per employee. Branham says as of a couple of weeks ago, there were 324 employees working at the facility. He and Tulsa County commissioner John Selph say staffing should not be an issue because it is strictly monitored by the Criminal Justice Authority. The authority makes sure that C-C-A stays in compliance with the American Correction Association's standards. "It is very disturbing that assertions would be made that conditions of the jail are unsafe for the employees,” said Tulsa Major Susan Savage. “The criminal justice authority who has a contract with the operator has not received information that would allow us to act."

Savage says employees do not have to identify themselves, but they do need to be more specific about problems in order for her to take action. They need to give dates, times and specific pods where problems exist. Savage says mistakes and problems will happen, but if something solid is brought to her attention, she it would be fully investigated.

Branham says C-C-A will discipline the employees responsible for mistakenly releasing the inmates. Members of the jail authority say mistakes happen, but there had better be fewer of them, quickly. The two inmates are still running free.