The failings of the OCSO to properly manage and maintain the Oklahoma County Jail cannot be overstated. Yet another inmate has been found “slipping through the cracks” after Judge Tom Prince made the order Tuesday, March 5, to have each inmate in the OCSO’s charge checked. Judge Prince issued the order when he learned that Charles E. Lemons had been sitting in obscurity without arraignment for eight months, begging Oklahoma County Sheriffs for a court date.
Just 15 days later a 20-year-old mother of two, Giselle Perez, was found due to the ordered inmate check and is grateful for the efforts of Judge Prince and Public Defender Bob Ravitz. Ravitz raised the alarm about Lemons after being notified by a mental health professional contracted by the OCSO; both Lemons and Perez now have Ravitz to thank for their freedom.
“Giselle Perez was jailed early Feb. 26 after a traffic stop because there was still an outstanding warrant for her arrest on a 2015 juvenile shoplifting charge even though the case had been dismissed.”
Other public servants, such as District 3 County Commissioner Kevin Calvey and District Judge Cindy Truong have been actively working to investigate and correct the jail’s dysfunctions, but Oklahoma County Sheriff P.D. Taylor would have none of it:
“There are ongoing problems with the management of the jail.”
“I think we need, obviously, to have more oversight of the sheriff’s office.”
– District 3 County Commissioner Kevin Calvey
“There was a reason why we were there. We were concerned because there are people in there that aren’t supposed to be in there… We wanted to make sure that everybody was accounted for.”
– District Judge Cindy Truong
Why didn’t Sheriff P.D. Taylor take the concerns of a District Judge and County Commissioner seriously enough to perform the #HEADCOUNT they were insisting on? We now know that Sheriff Taylor was likely worried about the embarrassment of having inmates which were unaccounted for locked up in his facility. Why though, after successfully thwarting Truong and Calvey’s efforts to do the count themselves, would Sheriff Taylor not do a thorough #HEADCOUNT for himself? Why did it take an order from Oklahoma County Presiding Judge Tom Prince for this #HEADCOUNT to finally be done? There are two possibilities: Corruption or incompetence.
[Days after a fellow county commissioner and several other officials were turned away during an attempted jail inspection, Oklahoma County Commissioner Carrie Blumert said Tuesday morning on Twitter that she didn’t get elected to “manufacture drama.”]
[Blumert said…the public already has a “rocky perception” of the sheriff’s office and county government…Saturday’s visit could further damage that perception. She thought the visit amounted to political posturing.]
– District 1 County Commissioner Carrie Blumert
Well Carrie, we are quite certain that Charles E. Lemons and Giselle Perez would not consider this “political posturing”.
Commissioner Blumert, will you finally use your office to advocate for accountability at the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office?
The Oklahoma County Sherrif’s Office has a history of corruption and misconduct. Former Sheriff John Whestsel resigned early in 2017, just after a recent re-election, amid probes and criminal investigations into the OCSO’s finances. A scathing audit of Whetsel’s office found several inconsistencies and misappropriations, including about $900,000 spent on vehicles even though other financial obligations had not been met. Sheriff Whetsel himself, in his letter of resignation, affirmed new leadership would be required to solve problems with the jail and “overall funding” of the office. Out with the old and in with the new; right? Wrong. Sheriff Whetsel would eventually be replaced by his second in command, Under-sheriff P.D. Taylor, who claimed to have absolutely no knowledge of his former boss’s misconduct or his office’s misappropriations… If that is the case, then what the hell was Sheriff P.D. Taylor doing while he was Under-sheriff?
Finally and most importantly, the number of inmate deaths in the Oklahoma County Jail is both breathtaking and heartbreaking. Above and apart from the obvious liability for Oklahoma County tax payers, totaling around $20 million worth of settlements incurred by the OCSO since 2009, these deaths lay at the feet of the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office leadership and the handful of Oklahoma County officials who [defend] them; usually thanks to an endorsement from the OCSO FOP 155. The citizens and taxpayers of Oklahoma County are demanding accountability, transparency and if necessary, the removal of the Oklahoma County Jail from the OCSO’s stead. Even if Sheriff P.D. Taylor were to resign tomorrow, the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office likely doesn’t have the motivation, personnel or proficiency to turn that jail around. This problem has been years if not decades in the making. It may be time for a change of direction at the Oklahoma County Jail, not just a change in leadership.