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Overcrowding Causes Unrest in Oklahoma Jail

By Matt Clarke

Around 43 prisoners in Oklahoma's Bryan County Jail took part in unrest on August 18, 2013. According to Bryan County Sheriff Ken Golden, the prisoners, who had been sentenced to serve time in prison and were awaiting transfer to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC), were being housed in a large-base cell. They allegedly set fire to a garbage can in the cell using a smuggled lighter. Special response teams from Durant, Chickasaw and Choctaw responded to suppress the prisoners while the Durant Fire Department extinguished the fire. There were no injuries.

Golden said the prisoners were upset by severe overcrowding and long delays in being transferred to the prison system. He said that the jail is holding around 161 prisoners, but has only 134 beds, causing tension and hostility among the prisoners.

"We've actually run out of mats on the floor for them to sleep on," said Golden, blaming the problems on the DOC's cancellation of several prisoner transfers. "There's some who have been up here up to a year waiting to go and right now, it takes anywhere from six months to nine months to get inmates moved."

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

 Golden said he would work on expediting transfers to the DOC. Meanwhile, the state fire marshal announced that he will be charging three or four prisoners who were involved in the disturbance with first-degree arson. "Arson in the first degree is any type of fire that is likely to injure or kill someone," said Golden who added that it carried up to 35 years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine.



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