Overcrowding At Wagoner County Jail Raises Concerns For Inmate Living Standards

Sheriff Chris Elliott says inmates are being sent to neighboring county jails because the county doesn’t have room, and that means taxpayers are paying twice as much to house them.

Tuesday, October 31st 2023, 9:16 pm



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The Wagoner County Sheriff says overcrowding at the Wagoner County Jail is raising concerns about living standards for inmates as well as the county’s finances.

Sheriff Chris Elliott says inmates are being sent to neighboring county jails because the county doesn’t have room, and that means taxpayers are paying twice as much to house them.

Elliott says sending inmates to other jails is only a band-aid solution and is costing the county thousands of dollars. He also says the overcrowding isn't safe for the inmates or the detention officers.

Inside a cell at the county jail, there are four walls, a toilet, a set of bunk beds, and enough room for a few steps to the cell door and back.

This space, meant for 2 inmates, is housing 3 in many cases, with a bed called a "boat" on the floor.

Elliott says the jail was built in 2003 and is exceeding its limits. He says a new jail or expansion is needed.

“It’s a recipe for something bad to happen in your facility. That's why I don't want to run my facility over capacity,” Elliott said.

Because of classification procedures, the 112 bunks are separated by pods.

“I can’t comingle females into another pod, so if that pod is full – if I got two girls in every jail cell, then I have to triple stack in that jail cell or I have to contract them out. Same thing with the sexual offender pod,” Elliott said.

When an inmate is sent to another county jail, Elliott says the county pays at least $40 per inmate per day, taking money from the sheriff's budget that's already allocated.

“If we average 30 inmates a month on a contract, I think it comes out to $432,000,” Elliott said. “It may be one less patrol car a year for the Sheriff's Office.”

But It's not just about dollars and cents. Elliott says he believes it's his duty to protect inmates' civil rights.

"I believe the solution to that problem is going out and asking the citizens to work with us and partner with us on our criminal justice system and look at the potential of building a new facility,” Elliott said.

A memo from the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office states there isn't any legislation that says jails must be a certain size, but if something bad happens, the county could be held liable.

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