The Norman Transcript

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February 2, 2014

Tulsa halfway house at the center of investigation

NORMAN — Federal investigators are looking into allegations against a Tulsa halfway house that resulted in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections pulling its inmates from the facility, Oklahoma Watch has learned.

Edward Evans, acting director of the Corrections Department, told legislators at a House public-safety subcommittee meeting Tuesday that the federal government was investigating issues at the Avalon Correctional Services facility in Tulsa.

Corrections Department spokesman Jerry Massie confirmed to Oklahoma Watch Thursday that the department had turned over evidence to federal investigators and department officials have had conversations with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI about the matter.

An FBI spokesman said per the bureau’s policy, he could not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.

The Department of Corrections has three active investigations into Avalon’s Tulsa halfway house, according to a Jan. 14 letter from the department’s deputy director Reginald Hines to Brian Costello, president and chief operating officer of Oklahoma City-based Avalon.

Preliminary evidence showed “serious infractions” involving inmate counts, security, possession of contraband by inmates and offender safety concerns, according to the letter.

“The violations are so serious that the Department will begin depopulating Avalon Tulsa immediately” of its nearly 200 inmates, Hines wrote, adding that the evidence showed a breach that goes to the heart of the contract. The contract would be canceled, the letter said.

“The Department has lost confidence in the administration of the Tulsa facility,” Hines wrote. The letter ordered all inmates removed from the facility within 10 days and limited the department’s inmate count at Avalon’s Oklahoma City facility, the Carver Center, to 225.

In November, The Oklahoman reported allegations that inmates were participating in organized fights sanctioned by officers at the Avalon halfway house in Tulsa. In January, a video showing a fight between two inmates at the facility was posted by the Oklahoman, the Tulsa World and other media outlets.

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