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Improvements have created safer county jail environment

Editor’s note: This is the second story in a three-part series about the Canadian County Detention Center. The series explores inmate and employee services, compliance history and more.

While Canadian County Detention Center employees have various responsibilities, jail administrator Maj. Kristie Carter said they work to ensure inmates’ rights and privileges are followed.
Each inmate has access to the jail’s handbook via its electronic kiosks located inside the pods. It discusses areas, like clothing and bedding change out, which happens once a week.
The handbook also outlines disciplinary actions; visitation requirements; and showers, which can be taken a minimum of three times a week.
However, on the newer side of the jail, male inmates have access to showers and kiosks daily.
Carter said inmates on the older side of the jail have more controlled access, as they must be let out of their cells to use the showers and kiosks.
Inmates also have access to snacks and special hygiene products through the jail’s commissary, which is typically paid for by inmates’ families.
Regarding speaking with inmates, Carter said it’s important to be honest with them and provide them available information.
“Always be respectful toward the inmate,” she said. “They’re somebody’s son, they’re somebody’s daughter, they’re somebody’s parent …”

A pod located on the older side of the Canadian County jail is pictured. Tamper-proof locks are on the outside of each cell door. What officials call the “old jail” was built in 1984. The newer side, which has two larger pods, was connected to the old side in 2013. Photo / Haley Humphrey

ODMH ensures jail compliance
The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services conducts yearly inspections of the jail. The county’s fire marshal also conducts annual inspections.
“The inspections are not a bad thing, they’re to help us improve,” Carter said.
Various past noncompliant inspections found overcrowding in the jail. The most recent inspection found the jail had female overcrowding during February’s historic winter storms.
“We had difficulty transferring to other county facilities because of their utility issues — potentially losing water; housing other county inmates because we were all encountering similar utility failures, due to that storm,” Carter said.
The courthouse was also closed, so that furthered the stall of movement at the jail, she said.
Carter said the jail is able to provide documentation to the mental health department to show they are in compliance, and when they’re not, they issue a correction.
Inmates can also file complaints to ODMHSAS. Most complaints are in regard to insufficient food, medical care and lack of air conditioning or heat.
The jail is required to serve two hot meals per day. Some of the meals consist of oatmeal, sandwiches, chicken hot dogs and steak fingers.

Jail history, renovations
The older side of the jail was built in 1984. Construction of the new side began in 2013.
Building of the new side came after the jail experienced overcrowding. The jail began contracting with other counties — Ellis, Washita, Grant and Dewey — as early as 2012 to house overflow inmates.
Some inmates from other counties are still held at the Canadian County jail.
There are currently 59 Canadian County inmates who are housed in other counties. The jail pays counties $18 for each inmate who is housed at their facilities.
Some inmates are out for mental health evaluation, as well.
Recent renovations have made the jail safer, Carter said. The jail received tamper-proof locks and contraband detection equipment in 2019.
The 42 locks were part of a $130,000 project approved by the Canadian County commissioners.
The jail also implemented an electronic logging system for tracking inmates in 2020, which was a $50,000 project.
More renovations will likely happen. Carter said she expects the jail will eventually have to undergo major sewer line reconstruction.
Many inmates often flush items, like their bedding or snack wrappers down toilets, which causes cell flooding.
“A lot of times some of the issues that we deal with — structurally or supply wise — are impacted by the inmate behavior,” Carter said.
As officers’ responsibilities are significant, they do not remain in pods 24/7 to ensure inmates do not flush items down the toilets or start fights, she said.
“Our commissioners are very supportive of the detention center, regarding funding repairs and our needs,” Carter said. “Just in the two and a half years I’ve been here, they’ve been very responsive.”
In 2012, a grinder was placed in the sewer system to eliminate non-disposable products. It was replaced in 2020.
“It works so much, it wore out,” said Canadian County commissioner Dave Anderson.
The replacement was $20,000.
Anderson said he wouldn’t be surprised if the grinder had to be replaced every five years.
“I don’t know what we could do to facilitate the problem other than supervision,” he said.
The jail’s budget is $3.3 million.
As the commissioners and the sheriff’s office are responsible for the jail, Carter said they understand the liability that’s at stake regarding the safety and rights of inmates.

 

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