State Rep. Jason Lowe (Dem., Oklahoma City) and other members of the Legislative Black Caucus are calling for a federal investigation of the Oklahoma County Jail.
The lawmakers made the call during a news conference that followed the deaths of 11 inmates at the jail in the past nine months.
State Rep. Lowe complained of “inhumane conditions” at the jail and called for an investigation by the Department of Justice.
“I’m asking for a federal takeover,” State Rep. Lowe said. “Lives are at stake every single day at the Oklahoma County Jail.”
The jail has been under federal supervision since 2009, but the caucus is asking the federal government to take its oversight to the next level.
State Rep. Lowe said a dangerous and hostile climate is present at the jail.
The justice department last inspected the jail in 2018.
State Rep. Lowe said he sent a letter to the department last week asking for assistance, but said he had not received a reply.
A criminal lawyer, the state representative said his work requires that he visit the jail frequently.
A death at the jail occurred just last week, making 11 inmate deaths since July. A few weeks before that an inmate was killed after he took a detention officer hostage.
“It is clear that what has taken place at the jail is a civil rights violation that deserves the attention of our federal government,” State Rep. Lowe said.
Tricia Everest, chairman of the Oklahoma County Jail Trust, invited legislators to tour the jail and voice their concerns.
“We will always cooperate with any oversight,” she said.
During the news conference, State Rep. Ajay Pittman (Dem., Oklahoma City) called for legislators to receive data on the number of jail deaths and “inhumane incidents” that have occurred in the facility in the past five years.
The conditions at the jail pose a threat to inmates, guards and visitors, she said.
“Whether you work there or you’re detained there until your court date, you should be safe,” the state legislator commented.