By Conrad Dudderar
EL RENO – A lack of running water and inability to flush toilets has prompted the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office to house more jail inmates in other counties.
The Canadian County Jail, along with most other county government facilities, was left without sufficient water pressure due to an extended power shutdown at the City of El Reno’s water plant. The emergency started early last week during the snowstorm and arctic temperatures.
“Currently we have 213 total inmates,” Canadian County Undersheriff Kevin Ward reported Feb. 22. “Because of the lack of water, we’ve tried to move as many out to some of the surrounding counties as we can.”
This Monday, 47 Canadian County inmates were being housed outside Canadian County – in Dewey, Grant, Washita, and Ellis counties.
There were still 166 inmates at the Canadian County Jail, 208 W Rogers, which hadn’t had running water for more than a week. Twenty-five inmates were awaiting transfer to Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) custody.
Over the weekend, Sheriff Chris West notified state DOC officials of the emergency at the Canadian County Jail.
“DOC has told us they will try to get 20 of the 25, maybe tomorrow,” Undersheriff Ward said. “We’re moving forward on that and hope to reduce our numbers even more.”
THANKFUL FOR ‘WATER BUFFALO’
Since toilets haven’t flushed normally, Canadian County Jail detention officers have had to regularly carry water from an 800-gallon “water buffalo” tank so inmates can relieve themselves.
The jailers pour the water down and plunge pressurized toilets – not a normal part of their job description.
Sheriff West thanked county commissioners for providing the large water tank to supply the jail.
“That’s really what’s kept us going over there – the water buffalo,” he said.
It’s been a “difficult time for everybody,” West added.
“It’s not just the jail, it’s the entire community. There’s still a lot of uncertainty when we’re going to get water.”
While their toilets haven’t been working, the Canadian County Jail population has still been able to eat warm meals. Only the water has been out – not the power.
Sheriff West confirmed some Canadian County inmates and family members had lodged complaints about the jail conditions, but emphasized he’s doing his best to address the situation under these unusual circumstances.