The District Attorney's Office has issued a legal opinion that states the Bryan County Jail Trust Authority must work within the statutes and administrative rules regarding space requirements, but stopped short of saying whether more beds can be added to the main jail.
District Attorney Emily Redman, Assistant District Attorney Greg Jenkins and District No. 1 Commissioner Elect Monty Montgomery met last week to discuss possible expansion of the main jail which officials say would allow the auxiliary jail to be closed and save the county approximately $300,000 per year. The capacity of the jails is about 62 each, and inmate populations last week ranged from 120 on Monday down to 103 Friday morning.
Montgomery and Sheriff Bill Sturch think up to 50 beds can be added by utilizing space in dayrooms that were added when the jail was gutted and rebuilt two years ago. Sturch wrote the district attorney a letter asking for a legal opinion, and Jenkins wrote a response after reviewing statutes and administrative codes.
“The opinion refers to the statutes and administrative rules that guide space requirements,” Redman said. “All we can do is say, ‘Here are the guidelines.' “What the Jail Trust Authority is trying to do is go within those guidelines to try to add beds. Any plan has to be approved by the jail inspector.”
Don Garrison, the state director of jail inspections, says it won't happen.
“No sir,” Garrison said. “The space is not there.”
According to Garrison, the dayrooms are a requirement for any jail that was extensively remodeled after Jan. 1, 1992.
“The old jail did not have a dayroom because when that jail was built, a dayroom was not a requirement,” Garrison said. “Even though they added space, they probably lost it by adding dayroom areas. It isn't going to work.”
Garrison said that he warned county commissioners at the time they were planning to rebuild the jail that it would not be adequate for the county's needs.
He said the auxiliary jail cannot be closed unless they can develop a plan to house the 60 extra prisoners.
“They can't put them in that (main) jail,” Garrison said.
Montgomery, however, is not giving up. He said that based upon his meeting with Redman and Jenkins, he still thinks 30 more beds can be added, and possibly 50 with additional construction.
Jenkins' letter cites Oklahoma administrative code requirements of a dayroom having 35 square feet per inmate for the maximum number of inmates who can use that room at one time. Montgomery believes the size of the dayrooms could be reduced if only four inmates are allowed out at a time, a policy that would improve security and safety, and also be within administrative codes.
Montgomery plans to meet with jail inspectors to discuss plans.
“I do think there is a chance we can put more beds in there legally,” Montgomery said.
“The key to this whole thing is all of us are in this together. The sheriff, the district attorney's office ... we are all working together. We all want to follow the administrative codes and state statutes and we will. We believe there is a way we can follow all of these and still create more inmate space in that jail. We are going to keep working together until that is accomplished.”