OKLAHOMA CITY — A pre-trial hearing was held in Oklahoma City Tuesday morning at the State Department of Health concerning violations of standards at Pontotoc County Jail. Proceedings were stayed by the judge for 60 days to allow time for another inspection and a complete strategy to be reviewed at a second pre-trial conference June 27.

“It was a good first meeting,” said Ken Johnson, local attorney working with Pontotoc County commissioners.

“We have 60 days to prove to the state that serious efforts are being made to resolve the problems. The judge made it quite clear that the jail was not up to standard and we have to prove to them we will take care of it or the state will move forward to take legal action to close the jail,”Johnson said.

“The hearing of merit was changed to be a pre-trial conference to be fair to the county officials. It was appropriate that they see all the evidence the state had and have a fair shot at knowing what would be introduced.” said Attorney Charles Broadway, representing the state. “A review of the plan of correction submitted by Bill Peterson in behalf of Pontotoc County commissioners and sheriff reflected that some of the items from the failed inspection had been corrected and we noted that a follow up inspection to verify that the facility repairs have been made will be done,” he said.

“We were heartened to hear the good-faith evidence of corrections were planned by the county,” said Broadway. “It is not our business to force counties to build new jails, we would be pleased as punch if they could bring their jail up to standards.” Broadway said the state health department tries to give counties the benefit of their experience and shares what they have seen done in other counties to correct problems. He said the additional time given to county officals should allow them to present evidence that their efforts will bear fruit.

“We endeavor to assist the county officials, to serve the citizens,” Broadway said. “It was all very positive, and I commend the team for their efforts. They answered a lot of questions on how soon the problem will be remediated. The infrastructure needs to reflect the growth of the county.”

“The judge was satisfied we had put together a team to resolve all the violations of jail standards,” Johnson said. “We are working together in a cooperative manner and looking at the feasibility of the options we have to consider and developing a strategy on how to deal with all the issues. We definitely understand we have an overcrowding problem; it’s obvious we need a new jail.”

said Johnson.

Attending the hearing were all three commissioners, Wilford Wood, Carl Wages and Gary Starns, Bill Peterson, district attorney, Pete Peterson, sheriff, Paul Smith, financial advisor, Ben Graves and Brent Clark from Architects in Partnership, Norman, Oklahoma, and Johnson, spokesman for the group. The state investigator, Don Garrison, had been involved in a car accident and was unable to attend the proceedings.

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