ENID, Okla. — Jail operations were a big topic of discussion for members of Garfield County Criminal Justice Authority during their meeting this week.
Agenda items for the special meeting Thursday included discussion of a status report of operations at Garfield County Detention Facility and consideration to approve and sign an amendment to the declaration of trust for the authority.
The amendment, approved by unanimous vote with one member of the authority absent, set the make-up of the board as the chairman of Garfield County Board of Commissioners, the current Garfield County sheriff and three appointed members who are not elected officials.
The current board includes Commissioner Marc Bolz, Sheriff Jody Helm and trustees David Henneke, Anthony Clardy Sr. and Larry Rutherford. Helm was absent from the special meeting Thursday.
The majority of the meeting was spent discussing operations of the jail, with members of the authority questioning assistant jail administrator Daylen Rivers.
Rivers began his report by stating the average population of the jail in July was 189 men and woman, a number lower than usual. However, he said, the jail's population was increasing.
He also updated the authority on upgrades at the facility. New software has been installed in the towers ,along with 32-inch touch screens. A new intercom system has been installed throughout the jail, and a new key fob system, similar to those used gyms, also was up and running.
Henneke asked Rivers about staffing at the jail. Rivers said three jailers recently were hired, but they replaced three others who were fired.
"We need a couple more," Rivers said. He explained the turnover rate for jailers was high, mostly because it isn't a job for everyone.
"I just want to make sure these key critical personnel we need and will keep us from getting sued … are here and those positions are filled," Henneke said.
Rivers said it has been about two years since the jail hired a booking supervisor. He said filling that position could solve a lot of problems.
Clardy asked about health care for inmates at the jail. Again, Rivers said, staffing was an issue.
"The nurse turnover rate has gone up," Rivers said. "I wouldn't say it’s working out any better."
Henneke suggested the authority meet with those who contract for the jail's health care. He also suggested meeting with others, such as bail agents, courthouse personnel and police, about improving operations of the jail.
"We will try to address all the needs of people and let them see we need input from them and constructive criticism from them," Henneke said.
Rutherford asked what the average length of service was for most jail employees.
"I would have to say a couple of months, maybe," Rivers said. "I've only worked here four years now, and there's only a handful of people, five or six, that have been here longer than me."
He said the jail had 27 full-time employees and nine temporary employees at the time of the meeting.
Henneke asked Rivers if there was anything the board could do to help him.
"I think if we could get our staffing up, a booking supervisor," Rivers said. "They could be the ones who talk to the (courthouse) bailiffs on a daily basis."
"We need to create that position and fill it," Rutherford said.
Bolz pointed out to other members the board's authority was limited.
"I think most of the stuff here that’s been said has been great," Bolz said. "The only person this authority can hire is an administrator. I think that’s a direction we need to go."
Bolz said he also has spoken with a law firm that could help the authority transition from a sheriff-controlled jail into a jail trust authority.
"That is something we need to work toward," Bolz said.
GCCJA will hold another special meeting Aug. 15 to discuss and/or act on the jail administrator position.