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COVID-19 “Wonderful” to Oklahoma County Jail

By Kevin W. Bliss
Audio released on February 8, 2022, captured Oklahoma County Jail (OCJ) administrator Greg Williams and Oklahoma County Detention Center communications director Mark Opgrande in a discussion two months earlier about how the COVID-19 pandemic had benefitted the jail, with Williams commenting that the disease which has killed 1 million Americans had been “wonderful” for them.

“COVID is our friend,” the jailer declared.

The recording was made in December 2021, when Williams failed to hang up after leaving a 20-second voice mail for a third person. For the next four and a half minutes, the voicemail box of the unidentified third party—who released the recording to government watchdog organization NonDoc—then captured a conversation between Williams and Opgrande

In it, the pair can be heard discussing a French journalist’s request to interview female prisoners at the county jail for a documentary. Both Williams and Opgrande agreed that this would not be a good idea. “[I]f we had something great going on, I’d think ‘great,’” Williams stated. “But just to show him that we’ve got nothing going on?”

“Yeah, we’ve got nothing going on,” replied Opgrande. “You can talk to a few ladies who are sitting around going, ‘Yeah, we don't do anything.’”

The two discussed referring the journalist to the Canadian or Cleveland County jails. They said that they could probably use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse. The conversation then turned to the effects of COVID-19 on the county jail, when Williams said:

“COVID has been the greatest thing that ever happened to us.”

“Yeah. It’s a built-in excuse to keep people out,” agreed Opgrande.

“And it's given us $10 million. I mean, COVID has been wonderful to us,” Williams enthused.

“And maybe gives us another $150 million,” added Opgrande. “I mean, that would be the best thing that would happen out of this.”

The jail recently received a $10.3 million grant from the federal CARES Act for pandemic-related assistance and is poised to receive another $150 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to build a new jail, if approved.

Former state Sen. Ben Brown (D-Oklahoma City), who is a member of the trust overseeing OCJ, said there was nothing untoward or under the table about the way Williams was spending the funds allocated to the jail. “I would be absolutely shocked...[if] there is anything underhanded or ill-conceived,” he insisted.

Sources: KFOR, Nondoc

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