By Conrad Dudderar
The Canadian County Jail is overcrowded, and sheriff’s officials are exploring options to reduce population in the El Reno lock-up.
The Canadian County Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 23 totaled 284 inmates in custody – a high for 2021, according to weekly jail reports.
That amount includes 246 inmates housed at the Canadian County Jail and 38 prisoners staying in other county jails, Undersheriff Kevin Ward told Canadian County Commissioners.
The Canadian County Sheriff’s Office has been working with county judges to release some miscreants booked for lower-level crimes on own recognizance (OR) bonds.
“We’re having trouble, though,” Ward explained. “As we’ve done this for several months, those that get released are not complying or they’re not appearing (in court), so a new warrant gets issued. You can’t let them out because they won’t show back up.”
“The judges have canceled weekend ‘sanctions’ because we’re so overcrowded right now, until we can get those numbers down,” Ward added. “It’s something we go through every day – getting the numbers down.”
Total “in-house” population at the Canadian County Jail has ticked up in recent weeks – increasing from 217 inmates on Aug. 2 to 229 on Aug. 9 and then 246 this Monday.
“The numbers are staying high,” Canadian County Commission Chairman Jack Stewart said. “It is what it is.”
ANOTHER COUNTY TO HOUSE INMATES?
The Canadian County Jail, 304 N Evans, has an official 194-inmate capacity. Jail personnel use portable plastic beds as needed to handle the overflow.
The Canadian County Sheriff’s Office is relying on contracts with four other counties – Dewey, Grant, Ellis, and Washita – to house Canadian County inmates sentenced to state prison or awaiting sentencing.
“We’re also looking at additional counties on top of what we’ve historically used to house inmates,” Ward advised county commissioners.
Chairman Stewart mentioned the Custer County Jail as a possible option.
“They’re closer than Washita or Dewey on each side of them,” said Stewart, the District 3 county commissioner.
Canadian County’s jail population started gradually increasing in the spring and that trend continued through the summer.
Inmate counts had fallen below 200 for an extended period throughout 2020 during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Canadian County Jail’s inmate capacity jumped from 72 to 194 when a $4.5 million expansion project was finished eight years ago.
Opening this addition provided temporary relief to overcrowding issues at the jail.
Some county officials have cited Canadian County’s steady growth and increase in crime among causes of the jail population hike.
Newly released 2020 U.S. Census data shows Canadian County’s population grew by 33.6% – from 115,541 to 154,405 – in the past decade.