The Norman Transcript

October 29, 2013

Backing up in county jails

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Law enforcement authorities have warned for years about the backlog of sentenced inmates held in Oklahoma’s county jails.

About half of the inmates in Cleveland County’s Detention Center are inmates who have been sentenced and are waiting for a bed in the state Department of Corrections system.

This past weekend, four inmates escaped from the Caddo County jail in Anadarko by climbing through a trap door above a shower. Three of the four inmates were awaiting transport to a state prison, and a fourth had been sentenced but was awaiting trial on another charge.

The counties are reimbursed for the inmates’ care, but it puts a burden on local entities to perform what should be a state function. It forces counties to build even bigger detention centers.

Oklahoma locks up far too many of its citizens for non-violent crimes. Community sentencing programs, drug courts and other diversion projects hardly make a dent in the growing population.