Bryan Co. Jail Riot and Fire Sparks Questions About Overcrowding - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

Bryan Co. Jail Riot and Fire Sparks Questions About Overcrowding Problem

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BRYAN COUNTY, OK--- About 43 inmates being held at the Bryan County Jail began rioting yesterday at around 8:30 p.m. This is according to Bryan County Sheriff Ken Golden.

Sheriff Golden said during the riot, the inmates set fire to a garbage can with a lighter that an inmate snuck in.  Durant, Chickasaw and Choctaw special response teams responded to control the riot and firefighters from the Durant Fire Department put out the fire. No one was hurt.

Sheriff Golden said the inmates who rioted are part of a large-base cell that holds inmates who have been sentenced to serve time in prison. He said the prisons that they are supposed to be transferred to are overcrowded and that several transfer trips have been canceled. This has resulted in overcrowding at the jail.

Today, a spokesperson for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is reporting that their prisons are about 98% full and that the overcrowding in the state's prison system has definitely trickled down to the state's county jails.

"Basically we're full," Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said. "There are about 1,600 to 1,700 inmates waiting in the county jails to come into our system."

Sheriff Golden said he can see the overcrowding in the Bryan County Jail.

"We've actually ran out of mats on the floor for them to sleep on," Sheriff Golden said.

In total, he said the jail has 134 beds for inmates, but recently the facility has housed about 161. He said this has left many of the inmates hostile about their sleeping arrangements and the overcrowding in general. Sheriff Golden said the overcrowding is the main reason behind last night's fire and riot.

After last night's riot Sheriff Golden said he plans to contact the Department of Corrections in hopes of getting some of the inmates moved.

"We're going to do everything we can to get them out of here," Sheriff Golden said. "It's not a matter of just giving in to somebody's will, but at some point you do have to move people to make room or things will get worse. You can only crowd so many people into a room before there's going to be problems. You've got to expect it."

However, Massie said transferring the inmates who rioted is just a temporary solution to the problem.

"When you have something like that happen then you end up canceling another county's move," Massie said. "You're really not gaining much ground when you do that."

Massie said most of the county jails throughout the state are overcrowded because inmates who are awaiting their transfer to prison can't come into the state's overcrowded system.

"There's some who have been up here up to a year waiting to go and right now, it takes anywhere from six to nine months to get inmates moved," Golden said.

In an effort to fix the problem permanently, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is looking into an alternative approach.

"About the only thing that is possible is to increase the number of beds that we contract for with the private prisons and that would require some additional funding," Massie said.

Massie said in order for this to happen, the legislature would have to increase funding. He said the Oklahoma Department of Corrections plans to try to increase funding next legislative session.