LAWTON – To comply with a State Health Department mandate to admit no more inmates to the Comanche County Detention Center for the time being because of a coronavirus outbreak, Comanche County has sent its new detainees arrested over the past three months to Tillman County. The bill has surpassed $120,000.
Comanche County commissioners signed an agreement to pay $45 per day for each inmate lodged in the Tillman
County Jail. Incarcerating Comanche County prisoners at Frederick, which is about 47 miles southwest of Lawton, “keeps us local,” Bill Hobbs, administrator of the Comanche County Detention Center (CCDC), said Monday.
Also, the Tillman County Jail has sufficient space to accommodate Comanche County’s needs at the moment. The county jail in Frederick is a 90-bed medium-security facility.
The former state health commissioner issued a “Quarantine Compliance Order” for the CCDC on May 16 that forbids the county jail from admitting any new inmates until the commissioner is satisfied that individuals in the CCDC are no longer considered to be “a threat to public health...” The county also was directed to take whatever steps are necessary “to prevent and control” the Covid-19 outbreak.
As a direct result, the Tillman County Jail:
• housed 25 Comanche County prisoners between May 19 and May 29, at a cost of $5,715. The inmates were incarcerated for periods ranging from two days (five inmates) to 13 days (one inmate).
• housed 85 Comanche County prisoners in June, for periods ranging from one day (15 inmates) to 30 days (seven inmates), at a total cost of $35,955.
• housed 135 Comanche County detainees in July, for periods ranging from one day (16 inmates) to 31 days (20 inmates), at a combined cost of $73,395.
The May and June invoices have been paid, but the July bill hasn’t been paid yet because it was received just recently, Hobbs said.
In his weekly report Monday to Comanche County commissioners, Hobbs announced that Tillman County housed 64 Comanche County inmates that day; that cost $2,880. In addition, 61 were lodged there one day last week, at a cost of $2,745. “Some days it bounces,” a Tillman County jailer told Hillliary Media.
“Outsourcing” inmates to Tillman County has been “draining our contingency fund,” Comanche County Excise Board Chairman J.P. Richard said Monday.
Comanche County has not had to reimburse the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) for CCDC inmates who were housed in state prisons for a month, between May 20-21 and June 23-24.
Justin Wolf, the DOC’s communication director, told Hilliary Media 180 men and 31 women were transferred from the CCDC to DOC custody temporarily, leaving the CCDC as a quarantine center for infected inmates. The men were sent to the North Fork correctional center at Sayre, while the women were transferred to the Mabel Bas- sett correctional center near McLoud.
The DOC has sought reimbursement from federal CARES Act funds for incarcerating the Comanche County inmates. Based on
federal guidelines, the state agency can seek reimbursement from CARES only for actual expenses incurred.
Wolf said the DOC “did not enter into a memorandum of agreement” with the Comanche County Facilities Authority “for a reimbursable daily per diem.” Jessica Brown, the DOC’s chief of strategic engagement, said the agency intended to seek reimbursement from CARES at the rate of $27 per inmate per day.
The detention center “gets money off of several different factions of the government,” District 2 County Commissioner Johnny Owens said earlier this year.
“We’re taking some money from CCIDA (Comanche County Industrial Development Authority) and helping with the detention center,” said Owens, who as the Central District commissioner has oversight of the CCDC.
The Comanche County Board of Commissioners endorsed a “plan of correction” Monday that, if approved by the State Health Commissioner, will enable the CCDC to resume accepting new detainees.
However, so long as the coronavirus pandemic persists the county jail would be allowed to house a maximum of 269 inmates, 95% of the facility’s authorized capacity of 283 inmates, “to allow space to segregate” any detainees who test positive for the coronavirus from inmates who test negative. Any prisoners above the 95% threshold would have to be lodged in a detention facility somewhere else.