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Oklahoma Court Orders Sentenced Prisoners Transported to Prison

The District Court for Oklahoma County, Oklahoma has ordered the County's Sheriff to transfer all prisoners awaiting transportation to the Department of Corrections (DOC) within 30 days and any prisoners sentenced after the Court's order are to be so transferred within 45 days of sentencing.

The Court's order came in a class action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to correct overcrowding at the Oklahoma County Detention Center (OCDC). The Court found that at no time has OCDC exceeded its maximum capacity of 2,890 prisoners. It has, however, overcrowded the section holding prisoners awaiting transfer to serve their prison sentences.

Holding prisoners for extended periods at OCDC after they were sentenced to prison without further charges pending is where the court found a serious problem. One-third of OCDC's prisoners, or 1,345, were awaiting transport to prison to serve their sentences. For prisoners, there is a huge difference in serving time at OCDC and prison.

The biggest difference is the effect on their release date. Oklahoma prisons utilize class levels that determine the amount of "earned credits" that reduce their sentence. To reach level 3, a prisoner must be incarcerated within DOC for three months while a prisoner imprisoned for eight months reaches level 4. Prisoners within DOC can also receive "achievement credits" for participating in DOC substance abuse and educational programs.

OCDC prisoners awaiting transport to DOC are being "triple celled," which is a violation of the health code. Meanwhile, all other prisoners, including 98 DOC contract prisoners, are not triple celled. The contract prisoners are those housed under contract with DOC. To facilitate this contract, the Sheriff encourages Oklahoma County judges to not utilize various statutory created sanctions that would result in incarceration at OCDC because of lack of bed space.

The Court also found irregular treatment between the contract and sentenced prisoners. Contract prisoners are allowed four sets of underwear, socks, and footwear per week while the sentenced prisoners awaiting transport only received one set per week. Because of prison overcrowding, DOC is only accepting 38 prisoners per week from OCDC. Yet, after this action was filed, DOC accepted 686 prisoners from OCDC in a three week period.

The Court ordered all sentenced prisoners be transported to DOC within 30 days of its September 29, 2006, order and all prisoners sentenced thereafter be transported within 45 days of sentencing. See: Ravitz v. Whetsel, Oklahoma County District Court, Oklahoma, Case No: CV-06-11.

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Related legal case

Ravitz v. Whetsel

The order is available in the brief bank.