By Conrad Dudderar
EL RENO – Canadian County will continue to house this county’s inmates in other counties’ jail facilities.
Canadian County Commissioners, at their weekly meeting July 12, renewed interlocal agreements with Dewey County, Ellis County and Grant County “to utilize jail bed space to house prisoners sentenced to incarceration or awaiting sentencing.”
Commissioners previously renewed a similar housing contract with Washita County.
The Canadian County Sheriff’s Office transports inmates to these other four counties if bed space is full inside the Canadian County Jail, 304 N Evans.
Canadian County Commissioners have agreed to continue in fiscal year 2022 contracting with the other four counties (Dewey, Grant, Ellis, and Washita) to house its inmates when the Canadian County’s 192-bed detention center is at capacity.
Undersheriff Kevin Ward was asked whether Canadian County will need to continue housing inmates in these other county lockups.
“My sense would be, we should maintain this,” Ward advised county commissioners. “If we don’t house a single person, we don’t have to pay. We just have the contract in place that allows us to do that.”
Canadian County’s jail inmate population has remained steady lately, Ward reported.
On July 12, there were 234 inmates in Canadian County custody – down around 10-15 from recent weeks. This includes 184 prisoners “in-house” and another 50 staying in other counties.
“My sense is, it’s going to stay where it’s at,” Ward said.
Canadian County’s total inmate population had fallen below 200 for an extended period during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the numbers increased several months ago.
Interestingly, other sheriffs have reported their jail numbers have not climbed back up as much as Canadian County.
“I can’t put a finger on it, other than we are growing tremendously – especially in the eastern part of the county,” Undersheriff Ward reasoned.
Canadian County Commission Chairman Jack Stewart pointed to the low cost of housing inmates in these other four counties – ranging from $18 to $20 per day per prisoner.
Even $20 per day is “at least half the cost” to house inmates in other jails – providing a significant savings to Canadian County, according to Ward.
Although Canadian County personnel must transport inmates (when needed) to the jails in Dewey, Ellis, Grant, and Washita counties, Stewart credited sheriff’s officials for limiting the cost.
“Every night they don’t have a bed space filled, it’s lost revenue forever,” he said of the other four counties. “They give us great prices just to get some bodies in there.”
Canadian County’s board chairman was pleased with this week’s drop in jail population.
“I don’t think you can ever project a consistently (in inmate numbers),” Stewart said. “You never know what the criminal activity is going to be.”
District 1 County Commissioner Marc Hader agreed.
“If it gets hotter, people may want to stay inside more,” Hader said.