On Thursday afternoon, the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council (CJAC) met at the new MAPS 3 Convention Center to consider hiring a new jail consulting firm.
CJAC has always been an idea group and was the body that developed the idea of a Jail Trust and a separate administrator for the jail other than the Oklahoma County Sheriff.
The group voted to hire the FSB (Frankfurt Short Bruza) architectural and engineering firm to investigate options for improving the physical facility that is the Oklahoma County Detention Center (Jail).
FSB has been involved in consulting, engineering, architecture, interior design, and other aspects of designing or redesigning spaces, many in the OKC metro. The latest example has been their involvement in the massive reworking of the Oklahoma State Capitol interior. They brought the building up to modern standards while recapturing the original look after many years and layers of smaller redesigns.
CJAC also set a timeline for community engagement and evaluation of options.
A subcommittee of CJAC has been established to research and make recommendations to the larger body regarding the physical state of the persistently problematic Jail building.
While it has been widely reported and acknowledged that the Jail suffers from design flaws and continuously mounting problems with issues like mold, plumbing, and bedbugs, CJAC has recently been examining the possibilities for remediation of the building.
Some on the subcommittee would like to see a new annex built for the Jail. That annex would likely contain a much larger and more humane booking and arrival area.
The new facility, in theory, would also house the medical unit on the first floor so that people could receive care upon intake at the Jail. The current tower, in this proposal, would be reserved for detainees categorized as “high security.”
Others have suggested a top to bottom rehabilitation of the existing structure instead of building something new, especially as amelioration efforts on the building will be necessary even if a new annex is built.
Still others have called for the existing Jail to be demolished and replaced with a safer and more humane facility.
At last month’s CJAC meeting, a Request for Proposals was agreed upon for seeking a consulting firm to assess the options for these ideas. A selection committee was formed and went over each proposal submitted, then unanimously chose one firm to send on to the facilities subcommittee. Both committees voted unanimously to select the company
CJAC heard from several members of the selection committee during Thursday’s meeting.
CJAC members Sue Ann Arnall, Dan Straughan, Carrie Slatton-Hodges, and Larry Stevens were joined by a ReMerge client in addressing the selection committee’s choice of consultant.
All reported that the firm FSB was the most holistic in their proffered approach to examining a detention facility. The firm, according to members of the committee, seemed to have a focus on mental health access for detainees and for appropriate pay and staffing levels for Jail employees.
FSB has a good deal of local experience, according to Timothy Tardibono, Executive Director of CJAC.
The turnaround on the RFP and bid selection process went very fast, according to Straughan, Executive Director of the Homeless Alliance. In fact, the RFP was released the very next day after CJAC voted to approve issuing the request.
The timeline for the assessment is also rather short for a project of this scope. In the coming few weeks, FSB will complete an initial facility assessment. After that, they will conduct some community meetings to find out what stakeholders think about the future of the jail.
These meetings will cast a broad net to attempt to ensure an array of insights and opinions on the matter.
Coinciding with that effort, FSB will develop “programming options” before presenting a draft presentation to the subcommittee and the larger CJAC body.
For ten weeks following the first community meeting, FSB will work to refine their suggested programming options and to define funding recommendations for the potential project.
In October and November, the consultants will make final recommendations to CJAC and the community at large.
After that, the recommendations will be presented to the Oklahoma County Board of County Commissioners and the Oklahoma County Budget Board for final considerations and potential adoption of recommendations.
Arnall was careful to point out that FSB is not being directed by the subcommittee to emphasize or prefer any of the proposed options.
While some members lean heavily toward building a new annex, some members of CJAC want to rehabilitate the existing Jail building, while still others endorse destroying the current jail and rebuilding a new and better facility.
CJAC will not meet again in July. The next meeting of the body will take place on August 19, at 3:00 p.m. The meeting is anticipated to be held in person, but the location has not yet been settled.