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Oklahoma County jail refuses inspection, setting up fight with state Health Department • Oklahoma Voice

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Oklahoma County jail refuses inspection, setting up fight with state Health Department • Oklahoma Voice


OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma County jail has twice refused surprise inspections from the Oklahoma State Department of Health, setting the stage for a potential standoff between the county’s district attorney and the state agency tasked with ensuring county jails are safe. 

The decision to block what should be a routine annual inspection has raised concerns among some who said unannounced visits are not unusual and are necessary to ensure inmates are receiving proper care.

County officials first denied entry to an inspector on June 25, saying the jail did not have enough staff to support the inspection, and again Tuesday for the same reason. 

Jail officials instead invited the Health Department to conduct the inspection on a predetermined date. 

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The state Health Department rebuffed that offer in its own letter dated July 1, which Oklahoma Voice obtained with an open records request. 

“We will not be deterred from obtaining an accurate understanding of how the facility operates on a day-to-day basis and decline your invitation for a planned and potentially curated inspection,” wrote Health Commissioner Keith Reed. 

He wrote that it was concerning that the jail did not have adequate staff for inspections given its history of “noncompliance with basic health, safety, and sanitary standards.” 

The agency then attempted a second unannounced inspection Tuesday morning. 

In response, the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office sent a letter stating that the agency had “exceeded its lawful authority.”

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Aaron Etherington, assistant district attorney, wrote in the letter that the Health Department must submit a 10-day notice prior to any inspections. 

The Health Department maintained Wednesday that unannounced inspections are legal and necessary and 10-day notice is not required. 

According to Oklahoma law, inspectors employed by the health department are permitted to enter the jail for inspections. 

Damion Shade, executive director for Oklahomans For Criminal Justice Reform, said the agency has the right to conduct unannounced inspections.

However, he said there could be legal context the public is unaware of that led the district attorney to support the jail in this case. 

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Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, said he is a long-time advocate for improving prisons and detention centers around the state. When it comes to surprise inspections, he’s very supportive of them. 

“If they know something is coming, they’re gonna do things differently and prepare … If we have random inspections, you’re gonna have to be prepared at all times,” Humphrey said. “Who wouldn’t want that?”

The Oklahoma County jail has been plagued with problems since it opened in 1991. A trust, the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority, took over administration of the jail in July 2020 but the jail continued to experience above average death rates, poor facilities, overcrowding and understaffing. 

“I think there are historical issues that have plagued that jail, really, since its design and inception,” Shade said. “I think it’s unfair to blame them (the trust) for all of those years of lost public trust.”

In 2023, The Oklahoman conducted a lengthy investigation which covered the long history of issues with the jail. Since the trust took over, over 40 people have died in custody, with four people dead this year alone. 

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A grand jury decided in March 2023 that the trust controlling the jail should be dissolved, returning control to the county sheriff. So far the nine-person trust has opted to continue running the facility. 

Shade said that abiding by state laws reflects a commitment to voters and the Oklahomans incarcerated in the jail. He said these unannounced inspections could help to rebuild public trust in the jail. 

“If the state Health Department was going to a school and the school said, ‘Hey, we don’t have enough staff to walk you around. We can’t do surprise inspections,’ … I don’t think the public would be satisfied with that type of explanation in the context of a school,” Shade said. “So we certainly shouldn’t be satisfied with that explanation in the context of a jail where we have Oklahoma citizens.”

Back in 2022, unannounced inspections revealed repeated violations of state standards. Shade said such inspections help protect the civil rights of the people in the jail and ensure that they are being properly cared for. 

“You (voters) all pay the taxes. You have a right to know what is happening in any space that you are paying for to house Oklahoma citizens. Be that a school, be that a jail or a prison,” Shade said. “Oklahoma voters have a right to know what’s happening.” 

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Oklahoma

Oklahoma Democrat and GOP Leaders React To President Biden's Address

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Oklahoma Democrat and GOP Leaders React To President Biden's Address


Oklahoma County Democrats Optimistic After President Biden’s Address 

The Vice President of the Oklahoma County Democratic Party said President Biden’s words reminded him of the late John F. Kennedy. Jay Bridwell referred to Biden’s phrase “to pass the torch to a new generation.” Kennedy used those words in his inaugural address in 1961 when he talked about passing leadership responsibilities to the future of our communities. 

Bridwell watched Wednesday night’s address with his family at his home in Edmond. He said Biden’s words offer him hope during a rocky political climate. 

Bridwell said he could feel the energy inside his party again. Bridwell was optimistic about the future with the change to Vice President Kamala Harris potentially leading the top of the Democratic ticket. He said this election year offers Americans a chance to bring fresh ideas to the White House.  

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“What is your purpose and what do you aspire to be? Bridwell said. “As long as we continue to navigate toward an opportunity for a black woman from California to be the next president of the United States, that opens up so many possibilities for others in like communities.” 

Apart from politics, Bridwell cherished chances to be with his family watching the evening news and listening to the President speak from the Oval Office. The decades worth of news over the past two weeks brought back old traditions.

Bridwell used to watch the news with his late parents as a child. He said the public needs to restore the lost art of civic engagement regardless of political ideals. 

Republican Reaction To Biden Address

Republicans are paying close attention to the Democratic National Committee following President Biden’s departure from the presidential race, and Kamala Harris’ rise as the presumptive nominee. It follows the RNC convention in Milwaukee, where many speakers aimed their messages toward Biden.

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In Oklahoma County, GOP chairman Ken Warner believes Biden’s address carried the same messages democratic leaders have already attached themselves to through the race.

“I would say, this speech tonight, I think is his way of saying goodbye in some ways,” Warner said. “And I don’t know how much his mental acuity will affect the next six months. As far as being president, I don’t necessarily buy into the fact that if he gets out of the race for the presidency for a second term it will compromise him being able to run the country a little bit [longer].”

Warner also expanded on his decision not to call on Biden’s resignation, because it would mean Kamala Harris would immediately step into the remainder of the presidency. Harris, he believes, is farther on the left than Biden.

While Oklahoma is a securely red state, Warner imagines that voters in battleground states will largely be spoken to in the language of economics. While Biden’s administration has underscored achievements to create jobs and stimulate the economy, Warner argues that everyday inflation is too extreme for average Americans to accept Biden’s accomplishments.

“I think Trump is the right pick right now,” Warner said. “Because I think we’re a nation in peril and we’ve got to reestablish ourselves and become the leader of the free world again. And because right now we’re not.”

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Oklahoma City Police Officer Accused Of Kidnapping, Assault To Appear In Court Wednesday

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Oklahoma City Police Officer Accused Of Kidnapping, Assault To Appear In Court Wednesday


An Oklahoma City Police officer charged with kidnapping and assaulting a woman will go before a McClain County judge on Wednesday morning.

Ryan Stark is accused of driving the victim to his Blanchard home last month, where court documents say he beat, raped and threatened her.

A probable cause affidavit alleges that Stark drove a woman in his patrol car back to his house, where she says she was assaulted.

Documents state that the woman had to be treated at a hospital for her injuries.

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According to police, the woman said she had been in a relationship with Stark.

According to the affidavit, Stark brought the woman to his house and tried to take her phone. It then says she tried to escape to the car, but the woman alleges Stark accelerated the car, breaking her foot on the garage door.

The woman also claims she was “held against her will” and that Stark put a gun to her head, threatening to kill her.

The woman alleges that she was sexually assaulted inside the home.

He’s charged with domestic assault and battery, first-degree rape, threatening to perform an act of violence, kidnapping, use of a firearm while committing a felony and disrupting or preventing an emergency phone call, according to the McClain County Sheriff’s Office inmate booking page.

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Stark has pleaded not guilty to his charges.

OCPD said Stark is on paid administrative leave.

Oklahoma City Police Officer Arrested On Several Complaints In McClain County





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Oklahoma Student Elected President of American Legion Boys Nation

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Oklahoma Student Elected President of American Legion Boys Nation


Morgan Johnson Will Lead the 78th Annual Session of Civics Program

ARLINGTON, Va., July 24, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — A rising high school senior from Wagoner, Okla., was elected president of the 2024 session of American Legion Boys Nation. Morgan Johnson received a majority of the votes from his fellow Boys Nation “senators” to earn the top office at the 78th annual session of the civics program, held annually in and around the nation’s capital.

Johnson, a senior this fall at Wagoner High School, entered the week as one of 100 young men from 49 states and the District of Columbia who were selected from their respective Boys State programs to spend a week at the campus of Marymount University in Arlington, Va., as senators in the Boys Nation program.

The 100 senators are divided into two parties, the Federalists and the Nationalists — one from each state. Johnson earned nomination from the Federalist Party and defeated Nationalist X’zaeviun Sims from Pine Bluff, Ark., in Wednesday morning’s election.

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Johnson was sponsored to Oklahoma Boys State by American Legion Post 153 in Wagoner, Okla.

During their week at Boys Nation, the 100 young men create their own version of the U.S. Senate, introduce and discuss bills, and elect a president, vice president, president pro tempore and secretary of the senate. They also meet with their home state’s senators and staff, and visit several landmarks in the area. They also have the opportunity to interact with their counterparts at Girls Nation, sponsored by The American Legion Auxiliary.

Also elected to office at Boys Nation 2024:

  • Vice President Rohan Parekh of Vestavia Hills, Ala., who attended Alabama Boys State.
  • President Pro Tempore Eshaam Bhattad of Buffalo Grove, Ill., sponsored to Illinois Boys State by American Legion Post 964 in Lake Zurich, Ill.
  • Secretary of the Senate Charan Bala of Clarksville, Md., sponsored to Maryland Boys State by American Legion Post 300 in Columbia, Md.

Media Contact: Andy Proffet, (812) 350-9526, [email protected]

SOURCE The American Legion



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