Ribbon cut on new Okfuskee County Jail
By Ken Childers
More than a dozen state and local officials braved the cold, damp weather Monday morning for ribbon cutting ceremonies at the new Okfuskee County Jail.
After opening remarks from State Senator Roger Thompson, a ribbon that had been stretched across the entrance to the 88-bed facility was cut by Danny Wilson, Chairman of the Okfuskee County Justice Authority.
“This has been a long time in coming,” Thompson said. “Even in August of 2016 when the citizens voted the bond…it was a long time in coming before we got to the voting of the bond.”
Thompson addressed the many jail-related challenges the county has dealt with over the years, from the issues caused by an overcrowded, decades-old jail to getting the new one built.
“When we talk about the challenges of the old jail, there have been challenges to the many sheriffs who have occupied that office, and challenges to the courtroom,” Thompson remarked. The old jail was located on the fifth floor of the courthouse, and the courtroom and offices below were often flooded by intentionally clogged toilets.
“County commissioners, you have been challenged in a number of ways throughout this process, from the original plan and the original design, and how that’s had to be tweaked to be able to fit the budget. Thank you for your leadership,” Thompson added. Current county commissioners, who also act as the Justice Authority, include Danny Wilson, Terry Wilson and James Yandell.
The senator spoke of another challenge – one created for law enforcement by the 2017 passage of a criminal justice reform measure. “There are a number of challenges that are ahead of us. Law enforcement today is challenged more than ever since citizens have passed State Question 780, making a lot of things a misdemeanor.”
As for SQ 780, Thompson said a state attorney general’s study is being conducted, which could result in the bill being “tweaked.” According to Thompson, the study will include testimony on the effects of the law from residents of Okfuskee County.
Thompson also thanked former sheriff Jack Choate, former county commissioner Max Henry and Sheriff Jim Rasmussen for their roles in getting the new jail open. Other officials on hand for the ceremony included District Attorney Max Cook, District Judge Lawrence Parish, State Representative Logan Phillips, County Clerk Diane Flanders, Okfuskee County Court Clerk Sherri Foreman, County Assessor Lori Coplin and Election Board Secretary Eric Swinford.
Although Monday marked the ceremonial opening of the new jail, it was officially opened on Dec. 4 when Rasmussen began the process of transporting inmates from the old jail to the new facility.