HICD community advocates against county jail building proposal

Just on the other side of this fence lies the 80 acres that were proposed as a space to build the new county jail. After the community fought back, the land was removed from the list of proposed sites, leading those who attend the school to breathe a sigh of relief.
Just on the other side of this fence lies the 80 acres that were proposed as a space to build the new county jail. After the community fought back, the land was removed from the list of proposed sites, leading those who attend the school to breathe a sigh of relief.
Hannah Tichenor

Staff and students are breathing a sigh of relief as the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee rejected the 80-acreage land on Britton Road and Kelley Avenue as a possible location for a new Oklahoma County jail. 

CBOC member Sandino Thompson said he believes that a new county jail is critical to improving the living situation of detainees. 

According to Thompson, the current facility has had issues from its inception. There are problems with the plumbing, transportation and methods of discipline. 

“It doesn’t have adequate space for mental and medical health, which is a large need for a lot of the folks that end up at the county jail for a lot of different reasons,” he said. 

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Spanish teacher Michael Kraus agreed with Thompson.

 “We need a better facility that handles both criminals and people who are suffering from mental issues,” he said. “I don’t think that we’re doing that appropriately now.” 

According to an article for News 9, Aug. 23 was the last day to submit proposals for where to place the new county jail.  

“Proposals had to include 40 to 80 acres for the construction of the new facility and could not be within 1,000 feet of any public or private schools,” the article stated.  

Among the proposals presented to the county was 80 acres of free land on Britton and Kelley. This site would have shared a fence line with Harding.  

The land on Britton and Kelley stood out because of the large amount of space being offered up for free, and had sufficient access to utilities, infrastructure and plumbing.  

In response to this proposal, theHarding Independence Charter District’s Superintendent, Steven Stefanick, issued a statement. 

“I have deep concerns and am strongly opposed to this proposed location,” he wrote. “Placing a county jail near our schools would introduce potential risks and disturbances that could negatively impact our students’ sense of security and their ability to focus on their education.” 

 He included the contact information of the County Commissioners and the members of the CBOC and asked that parents and teachers “advocate on behalf of our students and schools.”  

Speech and Debate coach Sierra Paul was shocked that the board even considered building a jail that close to a school. She said that she would feel very unsafe if a jail would be built within close proximity to her workplace and children.  

“When I heard the news, I, at my first available opportunity, emailed all the board members that Stefanick sent,” she said.  

Stefanick and Principal Joe Hughes said they believed that a jail being placed by a school community would negatively affect students’ sense of security and the quality of education provided for students.  

Sophomore Harrison Hans said he believed if the jail were to be built on Britton and Kelley, Harding’s status as a top school of the state would decline, and parents would start transferring their kids to other schools.  

Hughes said that it is alarming for him to think about if an inmate were to escape, especially depending on why an inmate was in jail in the first place.  

“I know that students use jail as a metaphor for the strictures of school. However, school is nothing like prison,” said AP English teacher David Walsh. “We want to make sure we keep our students in a safe environment that’s conducive to their learning, to their growth.” 

He said that the new county jail should be away from the main population. 

 “We don’t want it too far away, but we want it to be where we don’t have interference where our regular population feels threatened,” Walsh said. 

Although the CBOC is responsible for submitting the topmost ideal proposals, the final decision ultimately lies with the county commissioners.  

Much to the relief of the HICD community, the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee made the decision to reject the proposal to put the county jail by Britton and Kelley.  

“I’m very happy that we can look forward to not having that kind of a negative connotation associated so closely next door with a fantastic district and high school and others that are coming to the area,” said history teacher Travis Rhodes. “It would have been sad to have that kind of stick out as a constant visual every day.” 

The county hopes to significantly improve the conditions of the current county jail. They are looking to find a site that has enough space to build the jail with 1-2 stories instead of a limited amount of space to make a taller building. A building with more horizontal space and less vertical space makes moving around smoother, supervision becomes easier, and creates more opportunities for daylight.  

“You’re creating an environment that’s not super depressing, and that gets people to have the kind of behavior that you want while they’re in detention, to really reduce the instances of not only violence, but of instances of bad behavior or disciplinary needs,” Thompson said.  

The CBOC also has to consider a location’s access to resources needed to run a jail facility.  

Thompson pointed out that “building a jail is like building a hotel; you need a lot of plumbing and utility needs, so you need to make sure those things are there, otherwise you need to pay to bring them there.” 

News 9 said there are six sites still being considered, including the current site, which means the Oversight Committee has cut down their list by about half. Thompson holds the opinion that the current location does not have adequate resources to build a new jail that allows for the ideals that the county holds using the budget provided.  

“In Oklahoma City, the perfect place for a county jail does not exist; we haven’t found that place,” Thompson said. “We are looking at all the options to make the best decision, understanding that there is not an ideal location.” 

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Hannah Tichenor, Reporter
Hi my name is Hannah, I'm a junior in high school, and this is my first year on the Marionette staff. This year, I hope to write investigative articles.
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