Lawton, Okla. - After an outbreak of COVID-19 at the Comanche County Detention Center in Lawton, county officials contacted Secretary of Public Safety Chip Keating, requesting the state’s help.
Nearly a dozen ODOC security staff reported to the jail Sunday to help stabilize the facility and ramp up sanitization efforts after more than 100 inmates and 16 staff tested positive. ODOC remains on-site helping advise staff on correctional best practices during the pandemic.
The Comanche County Facilities Authority oversees the jail’s operations. The chair, Johnny Owens, says the jail was not ready for a COVID-19 outbreak, “We were not equipped to deal with this pandemic. We reached out to the state for help and have received an incredible response from people who jumped right in, working alongside jail administrators and employees to turn this around.”
Wednesday morning, the facilities authority will meet to discuss and possibly act on an agreement with ODOC to prevent further spread by housing COVID-19 negative inmates at a state prison immediately.
The Comanche County Detention Center is holding seven inmates awaiting ODOC intake, two of whom have tested positive. “ODOC had a plan in place when the pandemic migrated to Oklahoma, allowing us to keep the number of infected inmates in state facilities to only two of nearly 24,000,” ODOC Director Scott Crow said. “We welcome the opportunity to advise jail staff on how they can enhance their response to prevent further spread.”
As early as March 13, ODOC suspended all visitation and volunteer access to facilities. Within a week of the governor’s declaration of a state of emergency on March 15, the agency ceased inmate transfers from county jails, instituted a 14-day quarantine for any inmate exhibiting symptoms, and began screening all staff as they reported for duty.
ODOC anticipates assisting jail staff for approximately two weeks.