Canadian County Jail population hits 2021 high

Ticks up to 273 inmates in custody; with 229 at El Reno lock-up

Canadian County Sheriff Chris West

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

EL RENO – Inmate population has hit a 2021 high at the Canadian County Jail.

The Canadian County Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 9 had 273 inmates in custody, according to a weekly jail report presented to Canadian County Commissioners.

That total includes 229 inmates at the county lock-up in El Reno and 44 prisoners housed in other counties. There were six convicts awaiting transfer to state custody after being sentenced in district court.

The Canadian County Jail, 304 N Evans, has had an official 194-inmate capacity since an expansion project eight years ago.

Jail personnel use portable beds when needed, according to Sheriff Chris West.

“They’re large plastic beds we place on the floor,” West explained. “They look like a boat, and we give the inmates linen and pillows.

“Ideally, if we could keep the number under 194, it would be great.”

The Canadian County Sheriff’s Office has contracts with Dewey, Grant, Ellis, and Washita counties to transport and house its inmates when bed space is full in El Reno.

Inmate totals at the Canadian County Jail have been “creeping up,” District 1 County Commissioner Marc Hader said.

Canadian County Commission Chairman Jack Stewart noted “it’s that time of year.”

Over the late spring and summer, Canadian County’s jail inmate population has indeed trended upward.

Some people attribute the rise in criminal activity to Canadian County’s growth and an economic recession caused by the pandemic.

Officials estimate Canadian County’s population will be between 155,000-160,000 when official 2020 U.S. Census data is released. That will be about double what it was 30 years ago.


Here is a comparison of inmate counts over the past three months from weekly jail reports to county commissioners (no report was presented May 24):

  • Aug. 2: 266 inmates in custody; 217 in El Reno and 49 in other counties.
  • July 26: 247 inmates in custody; 195 in El Reno and 52 in other counties.
  • July 19: 249 inmates in custody; 206 in El Reno and 43 in other counties.
  • July 12: 234 inmates in custody; 184 in El Reno and 50 in other counties.
  • July 6: 246 inmates in custody; 205 in El Reno and 41 in other counties.
  • June 28: 248 inmates in custody; 204 in El Reno and 44 in other counties.
  • June 21: 235 inmates in custody; 196 in El Reno and 39 in other counties.
  • June 14: 225 inmates in custody; 183 in El Reno and 42 in other counties.
  • June 7: 257 inmates in custody; 221 in El Reno and 36 in other counties.
  • June 1: 246 inmates in custody; 194 in El Reno and 52 in other counties.
  • May 17: 254 inmates in custody; 207 in El Reno and 47 in other counties.
  • May 10: 238 inmates in custody; 184 in El Reno and 54 in other counties.
  • May 3: 242 inmates in custody; 191 in El Reno and 51 in other counties.

Canadian County’s total jail population had fallen below 200 for an extended period during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The last time there were fewer than 200 inmates reported in custody was Dec. 28, 2020, when there were 180 inmates in El Reno at 16 in other counties.

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 Department of Corrections.

“That number fluctuates every day,” Sheriff West noted. “We have some inmates serving weekend time.

“Sometimes the number may be up because we’re in the process of moving (inmates) to one of these other four counties we contract with. Or inmates could be brought in for a preliminary hearing, and a day or two later, we move them back out. So, the number rises and falls.”

A $4.5 million addition finished in 2013 increased inmate capacity from 72 to 194 at Canadian County Jail.

Opening the jail addition provided temporary relief to overcrowding issues at the facility.