Damage to Ottawa County Jail by inmates costing thousands

OTTAWA COUNTY, Okla. – It started with a jail riot spurred on by an inmate in April.

“They broke a bunch of windows, pipes out of the ceiling to make weapons out of, their sink and stuff to make shields out of,” says Ottawa County Sheriff David Dean.

Then, the inmate who started the riot started a small fire in the ceiling of a holding cell.

“And it wasn’t really even a fire. It was starting to be, but the smoke got everybody’s attention,” says Dean.

And most recently, a detective with the Miami Police Department discovered what was a source of contraband in the jail.

“They went from the shower through the gap in the wall into our boiler room and was trying to escape,” says Dean.

It’s been one thing after another over the last month, and the cost is getting up there.

“The riot, with the busted windows and the ceiling, that’s gonna cost probably about ten thousand dollars,” explains Dean.

Repairing the shower in bathroom attached to the boiler room will also cost a little more than a thousand, and Dean says they’ve already spent between two and three thousand on mattresses for inmates since he took over four months ago.

“You’ve gotta give them the mats, blankets and hygiene stuff. So you try to give them some shampoo, well they stuff the drains with the bottles which messes up the drainage system,” says Dean. “We’ve tried to start charging them when they leave if the mats not there, (but) they don’t have no money, so that’s something else that goes through the court. So it’s just a long road.”

The ceiling where the fire was started is being repaired by county employees, so the cost to make that repair won’t come out of the sheriff’s office budget. Dean says the county commissioners have worked with him a lot to help with repairs and other problems that have come up at the jail.

Dean also says they’re working on proactive solutions.

“We’re getting new camera systems, new lighting so we can maybe stop some of these drops that’s coming around. Took out some of their phones,” says Dean.

More jailers have been hired as well — they now have 15, which gives them around three per shift, plus the dispatcher (who also helps with female inmates). But when there’s more than a hundred inmates in the jail, they can’t be everywhere at once.

So this coming fiscal year, Dean hopes to add enough jailers to get four on per shift, so that if something does happen not all of the jailers are tied up with response. County Commissioner Russell Earls says that enough money should go to the sheriff’s office that they can hire those additional jailers, as well as more road deputies and have more funds for repairs and maintenance. Another big ticket item that should be taken care of by this summer is the roof of the jail. According to Earls, the majority of 907 thousand in Covid relief funding will be going to the sheriff’s office to replace the roof.

“I mean, we’ve only been here four months, so we’re still trying to fight the fires from before. And we’ll get it fixed, it’s just gonna take time,” says Dean. “Sooner or later everything’s just gonna be running smooth again.”