NOWATA —A jail auditor told the Nowata County commission Monday that jail is not safe, not secure and is dangerous.
Michelle Robinette, an American Correctional Associational jail auditor, presented her jail-audit findings four days after the jail was evacuated because of a gas leak. The leak sickened three county employees and forced inmates to be relocated to the Washington County Detention Center. They are still incarcerated in Washington County.
“I’ve heard some small things about the Nowata jail, but nothing was a surprise. They’re in a different spot, and it’s going to take a different solution,” she told the commissioners. “It is not safe, nor is it secure. It is dangerous, and there are liability issues,” said Robinette.
She said a major disaster hasn’t happened yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t.
The audit pointed out these deficiencies:
• Dispatch wooden door left wide open
• No communication devices
• Large chips in walls which provides areas to hide contraband
• Not all toilets are working
• Not all sinks are in order, which does not provide fresh water for inmates
• Broken sink lying on the floor could be used as a weapon
• Black mold on the ceiling tiles in kitchen
• No supervision in the kitchen
• Exposed wires everywhere
• No accountability for tools
• No cameras
• Improper use of storage items
• Keys and inmate medicine left out
Although these items were cited at the meeting she said, “You can’t really sanction out one thing. It’s the whole totality of the jail from start to finish.”
She understands money is an issue in repairing the jail.
County Commissioner Troy Friddle questioned the county commissioners’ role in managing the jail.
“It’s our job to provide a facility but not to manage it,” he said. “Everyone agrees to fixing the jail, but where’s the money going to come from?”
Robinette offered several options for providing a safe, secure jail for inmates.
One is to safely house Nowata inmates in another county for approximately $27 a day.
“I don’t think people understand the liability the county is under,” said Sheriff Terry Sue Barnett said.
County Commissioner Burke LaRue said a safer jail is necessary for the inmates, courthouse employees and Nowata County residents.
“We just had three employees who were diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning,” he said.
Robinette will continue to work with the jail to find solutions whether it will be renovating the jail, building a new one or contracting with another county jail.
In other actions, a discussion regarding ankle monitoring systems was delayed until the next Monday meeting.