LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - The administrator of the Comanche County Detention Center says the jail is extremely overcrowded, but he hopes a new program will soon begin to ease the tension its creating behind the bars.
The county jail has room for 283 inmates, but as of Thursday Night there were 350 people there. That includes 30 inmates already sentenced who are waiting to be transferred to a state Department of Corrections and 270 inmates who are still waiting for their cases to be resolved.
The jail administrator says the numbers being that high is difficult for both the staff and inmates, but he's optimistic that a potential solution may be in sight. The jail is experimenting with one new system that would allow inmates serving for certain sentences to only serve time during the day. While there really isn't anything that can be done that will completely remove the problem, they hope the program will be a huge step in the right direction.
Right now, the county only has one inmate testing out the day-time only sentencing. The inmate shows up at 8 a.m., works and serves his time until 4 p.m., goes home and comes back the next day. Comanche County Detention Center Administrator William Hobbs says this is a solution he would like to use more often.
"Then we'll have to be creative in how we work those people,” Hobbs said. “Right now we're using him for courthouse beautification, jail cleanups and stuff like that but were hoping to make that more of a program than we've got right now."
Hobbs says there isn't one clear-cut reason for the prison population growth, simply that they have more inmates than they have space. He says he has seen the prison population rising each year by about 4-percent.
"If that trend continues, we're going to be more overcrowded than we are now,” Hobbs said. “Unless we come up with a different alternative."
With the overcrowding, there are seven or eight inmates living in each cell. Hobbs says thanks to the set-up of the jail, they can use what they call "boats", which are plastic containers with a mattress inside that they place on the floors of each cell. Hobbs says that does sometimes lead to problems with the inmates.
"It creates a problem, it causes stress between inmates,” Hobbs said. “Look, you can't get along very long with a bunch of people crammed in there like that so we try to get them out in the rec yard to kind of relieve that tension for them"
Hobbs says that this isn't just a problem for the inmates and staff, but also for most residents of Comanche County.
"There's somewhere around 126-thousand people in Comanche County and 4-percent of those come through this jail,” Hobbs said. “So the odds are somebody in this county knows someone that has come through this jail, so it affects all of the families and everyone that lives here."
Hobbs says the extra inmates also take a toll on the finances for Comanche County. He says adding more inmates does not increase the jail's budget, meaning more tax dollars have to be used to purchase supplies.
Despite the added difficulty of being 70 inmates over capacity, Hobbs says the jail staff prides themselves on always making sure every inmate is treated humanely.