Biding Time (Part III): Caught up in the system

PART THREE Understaffed and lacking resources, the Oklahoma County jail has quickly become bogged down by a large number if inmates, many of whom get stuck with no way out.

story by josh dulaney
design by richard hall
photos by the oklahoman photographers
published june 27, 2017

Brandi Davis spent Mother's Day in the Oklahoma County jail.

She didn’t have money to call her 10-year-old daughter, but a card from her only child brought joy between meals of bread and rice, chicken patties and the occasional cookie, all of which are soggy, Davis says.

“I know it’s not supposed to be the Holiday Inn, but, I don’t know ... ”

In a jail visiting room, her voice fades away. It’s May 19, five days after Mother’s Day. More than three months after she was arrested, accused of stealing a hoodie from a department store, hoping to trade it for heroin.

Her eyes are clearer now, and the 35-year-old Oklahoma City resident advises that if one is going to get caught committing a crime, do so in Cleveland County.

“The food’s better,'' Davis says. "You get fed on time, hot food three times a day.”

It’s not just the food that draws complaints. Sewage problems, poor lighting and porous walls are among a host of structural problems that plague the jail, a bane of civic leaders for more than two decades, who deride the facility as ill-designed and doomed from its debut in 1991. It also houses many of the community's poorest and those struggling with addiction or mental illness as well as disproportionate numbers of women and some minorities.

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