City fires back on county jail negotiations

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The jail sharing contract between the City of Tulsa and Tulsa County is due to expire in less than two weeks, and negotiations are stalled. Mayor Kathy Taylor issued a memo to the City Council last Friday reviewing the origins of the current contract, created in 1995, and the county promises that persuaded city officials to work with the county to pass the jail tax.

(Here is the memo from Mayor Taylor to the City Council and
the attachment to the memo, including documents and statements made when the original city/county jail contract was signed in 1995 (5 MB PDF).)

In a nutshell, Tulsa County had failed to pass a bond issue to replace the overcrowded jail on the top floor of the County Courthouse. One attempt to pass a sales tax for a new jail was blocked by District Judge Jane Wiseman, who said the proposal, which bundled funding for crime prevention programs with the cost of building and operating the jail, was unconstitutional logrolling. (Eight years later, Wiseman turned a blind eye to far more blatant logrolling on the Vision 2025 ballot. She now sits on the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals.)

In an effort to win the City of Tulsa's support for a new, properly divided sales tax vote, county officials agreed to house up to 116 purely municipal offenders -- people in jail on a city charge, but with no state charges pending -- in exchange for county's use of the city's municipal jail and booking area for housing prisoners appearing at the courthouse and the county's use of the city's adult detention center near Newblock Park. The county's argument to the city was that combining operations would save the city more than $2 million annually that it was spending to run its municipal jail. The city would reimburse the county at a rate of $16.44 per prisoner per day for any municipal prisoners in excess of 116.

The county's proposal for the new jail contract redefines what constitutes a municipal prisoner and triples the cost per municipal prisoner per day. Previously, prisoners counted against the city's allowance of 116 only if they were in jail solely on municipal charges. If they were in jail on state charges, they were the county's responsibility under state law, even if municipal charges were also pending. The county's new proposal would eliminate any allowance to the city -- charges would begin with the first municipal prisoner -- and the city would be billed for every prisoner with a municipal charge pending, even if the prisoner would have to be in jail anyway on state charges.

Taylor's memo includes the assertion that Sheriff Stanley Glanz has been able to operate the jail for $2 million a year less than the money generated by the 1/4-cent jail operation sales tax.

City officials are right to resist this contract and to explore alternatives, such as letting the agreement lapse using the adult detention center as the city lockup. It would be better if the county reconsidered its position and worked with the city on continuing combined operations. The county should agree to the old, sensible definition of municipal prisoner and should grant the city an allowance of purely municipal misdemeanor prisoners in consideration for the sheriff's use of city detention facilities.

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1 Comments

XonOFF said:

If this is the kind of thing we can expect from Commissioner Smaligo, he's going to be next. Every time this issue is discussed, it's he who is spokesman for the County.

Wonder who convinced him it's a good idea to do this? And, is someone intentionally blindsiding him for political effect? Seems he's always speeking in gobbley-gook when interviewed, not saying anything but "don't worry, it's going to be great, we'll work it out."

Could be someone using him as lashback on the sales tax or annexation. But, shooting oneself in the ..foot.. is odd political posturing.

As an aside, I understood one part of our County sales tax was to cover ongoing operations of this "City/County" Jail (it was always intended to be for both, with the County taking the lead in operations). So, the County doesn't really have any expense of operations there which isn't already covered by us, and over 70% of that is Tulsans.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 18, 2008 2:06 PM.

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