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Stephens Co. Jail Overcrowded

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STEPHENS CO., Okla_ Too many prisoners not enough room: overcrowding has become a major problem in our County Jails.

The Stephens County Jail has averaged over 180 inmates per day in the last four years, with a capacity of only 164. Tuesday morning, they had nearly 200, and there's no real solution in sight.

The finger can't be pointed in one direction. There are multiple reasons the Stephens County Jail is over capacity, Sheriff McKinney isn't apologizing for at least one of the problems. He said it's a result of their hard work. 

The inmates' pods at the jail are holding 20 inmates instead of 16 and up to four per cell instead of the usual two.

"Most of them are people you don't want running on the streets," McKinney said. "We've got a couple people in there for murder right now."

So why is the Stephens County Jail overcrowded? It's for one reason: the county is cracking down on crime.

"The district attorney has really been aggressive at it," McKinney said. "Judges are very conservative judges and are doing their job. So, when working as a team of law enforcement and court systems, this is what happens."

While he makes no apology for the numbers, McKinney isn't fond of the prisoner to worker ratio. 

"Right now, the Stephens County Jail is at a 30:1 inmate to staff ratio," McKinney said.

Among other things, Sheriff McKinney thinks that puts his employees' safety at risk. That's why he's asked for eight new detention personnel.

McKinney wants to keep the reputation of his jail clean, meaning no escapees and no accidents. So, he's glad that Monday, the commissioners agreed to his request.

"They've agreed to give us more people per shift and add that extra safety buffer we need," McKinney said.

Workers are needed, not only because they're cracking down on crime, but because society is changing.

"Crime is up nationwide," McKinney said. "We've seen an increase in certain crimes. All of it, if you look deep, is going to be tied back to the drug problem."

He said these are problems that could, in the near future, cause jails across the state, including Stephens County to expand their walls. Another reason county jails are overcrowded is they're holding inmates for the department of corrections.

About 25% of inmates at the Stephens County Jail are waiting to be transferred to the state penitentiary.

We also checked with the Comanche County Detention Center. They are at capacity right now, which is just over 280. They were 25% over capacity until the D.O.C. took some inmates off their hands.

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