By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
EL RENO – The Canadian County Jail is full.
But with ample space to house Canadian County inmates in three other counties, county commissioners – weeks after paying off debt on the last jail expansion – have no plans for a second one.
The Jan. 25th Canadian County Jail report shows the highest number of inmates (215) in custody since Dec. 9, 2019, when there were 222.
Inmate population counts have increased gradually over the past several months at the county’s medium-security detention center, 208 W Rogers.
The Canadian County Jail on Jan. 25 was at “100% capacity” with 194 being housed in the facility, Undersheriff Kevin Ward reported.
Monday’s weekly report showed there were 215 Canadian County inmates “total” in custody, with 21 being housed in three counties. Meanwhile, 18 inmates were awaiting transfer to the state Department of Corrections.
“I’m concerned – just not real concerned – because there’s a lot more capacity to ‘send them out’ to other counties,” Canadian County Commission Chairman Jack Stewart said.
“We will watch it closely. It does bear watching to see if the trend continues up, it stays steady or drops.”
Canadian County’s total inmate population has been trending upward in recent months – between 189 and 210 before reaching the high of 215 this week.
Population at the county’s lockup in El Reno ranged from 176 to 187 between Nov. 23 and Jan. 19, before peaking at 194 this week.
Canadian County Commissioners do not support “adding on” to the county jail, Stewart emphasized.
Canadian County regularly houses inmates in Dewey, Grant and Washita counties.
The cost is $20 each day per inmate, which Stewart called a “very reasonable rate.”
Canadian County inmate counts had fallen below 140 last March due to health and safety restrictions during the COVID-19 shutdown. The weekly inmate counties stayed in the 125-150 range for several months last spring and summer.
The Canadian County Jail houses both pre-trial detainees and formally sentenced offenders, who are required to serve their time in the county jail and state DOC.
2013 JAIL EXPANSION
The increase in jail population comes after Canadian County Commissioners agreed to paid off the $1.28 million remaining on construction loan to finance a 2013 county jail addition.
The debt was retired three years early, saving interest costs.
Canadian County had borrowed $4.5 million to build a 122-bed addition to the jail.
This expansion project, completed in December 2013, increased inmate capacity from 72 to 194 at the county jail.
Opening the jail addition provided temporary relief to overcrowding issues at the facility.
At its peak, Canadian County’s inmate population grew to exceed 300 – with more than 100 inmates housed in other counties. There was talk several years ago of a second jail expansion project.
But then Canadian County started seeing a large decrease in jail population after passage of State Question 780, a criminal justice reform bill.
The new law, which took effect in July 2017, reclassified some low-level offenses like drug possession and simple property crimes to misdemeanors punishable by treatment in the community.