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Canadian County jail seeing decrease in inmate numbers

Pictured is the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office located right next to the Canadian County jail in El Reno. (Photo by Jacob Sturm)

By Jacob Sturm

Inmate population is noticeably decreasing at Canadian County’s jail in El Reno, and the exact
cause of the dropping numbers is not exactly known.

The Canadian County Sheriff’s Office meets monthly with other sheriff’s in the area, and
undersheriff Kevin Ward mentioned the numbers are dropping across the board.

“We don’t know if people are being nicer or if there’s maybe some effort to get people out of
jail (through) maybe lower bails,” Ward said. “We haven’t been able to identify what the cause
is, but we have noticed a trend at least not only in our county but kind of regionally with the
central and kind of northwestern counties here in Oklahoma.”

There are obvious benefits the county gets from having less inmates. For one, lower numbers
make the jail easier to manage while higher numbers bring more demands for detention
officers to take care of.

Part of the management of the jail is taken care of through electronic logging of activities of
inmates through Guardian RFID that was renewed as part of the Board of County
Commissioners agenda on Monday morning.

“We used to have these paper logs, and you’d stop and you had to write and it took a lot of
time, and sometimes they’d forget to enter them in there,” Ward said. “With this guardian, it
requires them to go through that… It helps us to be able to meet those obligations without
being so strained.”

Ward mentioned, like every other county, Canadian County has found it difficult to hire good
people to fill the needs the sheriff’s office may have at any moment.

He mentioned larger groups of inmates can also cause issues of management through the
formation of different sects or gangs within jails.

“Part of me would like to think that maybe people are doing better out there,” Ward said. “I
don’t know because our deputies are staying pretty busy with taking instant report crimes and
those kinds of things, but we certainly prefer our numbers to be lower than higher.”

Canadian County can hold 194 inmates in the county jail. Part of the dilemma the county is
facing is that 120 of those beds are in two 60-person pods, making the current issue segregating
certain inmates.

Ward mentioned utilizing other counties to free up beds, isolate inmates when they need to be
separated from the large group.

Priority levels for expanding the jail rises and falls based on the number of inmates housed in
the county. Currently, those priorities are focused on other projects since the county technically
has open beds.

The county had 143 inmates in custody as of Monday, with 133 of them being inside the County
Jail and 10 being in counties contracting with Canadian County.

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