Covid-19 has Big Impact on Oklahoma Jails
So, obviously, everybody’s been seeing in the news with the COVID-19, and the coronavirus going through our communities. And it’s also a risk for people that are in the in-custody population.
That could be even worse when we’re talking about a prison population. More so, because we’ve got prison overcrowding in a lot of places in Oklahoma.
That’s an issue we’ve been dealing with for quite a while. And although it’s been down a little bit in recent year or two, pursuant to criminal justice reform, it’s still an issue that’s going on currently.So what are the current state of affairs in Oklahoma jails right now?
Well, the first thing that’s happened is the Oklahoma Department of Corrections has decided that they’re no longer going to receive new inmates from county.
Generally, somebody gets charged in a county court, once they’re convicted, they pull chains, and they get sent off to Oklahoma Department of Corrections. And then, they get placed into a penitentiary system there. That’s no longer happening.
The Department of Correction is not accepting new inmates because they don’t want the possibility of having a new inmate that has coronavirus bring it into the system.
So, they’re somewhat on lock down there and that provides additional protections for them. But there is a consequence of that for our county jails. It means further overcrowding and county jails.
At the time that they stopped accepting new prisoners in DOC in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma County jail already had 188 prisoners ready to be transported and waiting to be transported into DOC. That’s not going to happen now.
So, there’s going to be a backlog and then more people are going to be confined to county jails, which means there’s more overcrowding, which means that they’re more at risk for the spread of disease of, particularly the coronavirus.
COVID-19 because when somebody gets arrested now they don’t go straight to the penitentiary. They go to our county courts or our county jails.
So, what is being done on that? Well, there have already been a couple dockets in some of the larger counties. In Oklahoma County, they’ve already gone through, and released about 200 prisoners from their county jail that were deemed not to be a risk to the public.
Tulsa County has done something similar, but released less, maybe 60 or 70 people. But there’s still a lot of people that are in jail, there’s still new people potentially going in. And that’s going to be a potential risk to them if coronavirus starts spreading there.
We’ve already heard reports of it spreading in some jails. There’s been reports, just in recent days, that Harvey Weinstein actually has coronavirus, and he’s in custody. That’s not in Oklahoma, but it’s not too much to say that that’s a possibility that could happen here, and it is a risk.
And if you’ve got a coronavirus, obviously, they don’t want you in custody. And if you’re in custody and you are not a risk to the public it doesn’t make any sense to have the responsibility of housing you, and providing medical for you in a crisis like this to be on the county.
So is it grounds, if coronavirus is spreading in the area, in order to get released from the jail? It can be. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has shut down a lot of court operations, but one thing that they did not shut down is bond hearings because that is essential.
Somebody gets arrested, or somebody’s in custody they’re entitled to a bond hearing within a short period of time, generally about 72 hours. And any grounds can be presented at that, coronavirus can be one of those grounds.
So, if you know somebody that’s in custody in county and are concerned about their wellbeing, regarding the coronavirus and other things, and they’re not a danger to the public it doesn’t make sense to have them in custody.
If they’re going to promise a show for their court dates, it doesn’t make sense to have them in custody. They’ve got an entitlement to bond and it may make sense to request to have an OR bond, or an own recognizance bond, where you don’t have to pay a bond.
Also called a PR bond, a personal recognizance bond. So, if you know somebody in that circumstance, you probably want to talk to an attorney, set it for a bond hearing, see if they can be released.
If you’ve got any questions about that, you can contact me because this video provides some general information, but if you’ve got somebody in mind that may need some help, you’re going to want some specific information for their circumstances.
So, if you want a consultation with one of our attorneys, we can do that for you. Go to makelaweasy.com.