Oklahoma County jail inmates went almost two weeks without a hot meal, officials say

A collapsed sewer line under the Oklahoma County jail has rendered the kitchen out of service since June 19. Jail officials said it could take four to six months to repair the line.
by Jonathan Sutton and Graham Lee Brewer Published: July 3, 2014
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photo - AERIAL VIEW:  File photo of the Oklahoma County jail. photo was taken from ranger9 looking south. Staff Photo By Steve Gooch/ KWTV NEWS9
AERIAL VIEW: File photo of the Oklahoma County jail. photo was taken from ranger9 looking south. Staff Photo By Steve Gooch/ KWTV NEWS9

Inmates at the Oklahoma County jail went without a hot meal for nearly two weeks in June, violating state jail standards.

The facility’s kitchen has been inoperable since June 19 because of a collapsed sewer line under the jail, and inmates received three cold meals a day for 13 consecutive days, Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel said.

Oklahoma administrative code requires inmates in state custody receive at least two hot meals per day. Instead, inmates received turkey, bologna, ham and salami sandwiches, a jail spokesman said.

“When they built this facility, they built it on a river bed,” Whetsel said. “And they buried the sewer pipe in moist dirt, and over the years, this cast-iron sewer pipe has begun to disintegrate.”

Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief, a volunteer organization, has been on site providing two hot meals per day to inmates since Wednesday, state director Sam Porter said. The organization’s mobile kitchen, which typically responds to tornado or disaster relief efforts, will provide meals to the facility’s roughly 2,500 inmates until July 31, he said.

“(The inmates) were just waving and cheering,” Porter said. “They said ‘We are so glad, we’re tired of cold meals.’ ”

In a letter sent to The Oklahoman dated June 9, an Oklahoma County jail inmate named Steven Alvis said he had received only seven hot meals in the previous six months, a claim Whetsel called an “absolute lie.”

This is the second time in the past five years Porter’s organization has been called in to provide hot meals to jail inmates.

In 2010, a different sewer line under the building collapsed, causing the kitchen to be out of service for several days.

Whetsel said the 2010 collapse was patched relatively quickly, but the most recent collapse is a larger problem. He estimates it could cost the jail $1.5 million to fix.

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by Jonathan Sutton
Breaking News Reporter
Jonathan Sutton is a reporter covering breaking news and crime for The Oklahoman and NewsOK.com. He grew up in Ada and has a degree in journalism from Oklahoma State University. He was the Editor-in-Chief of The Daily O'Collegian, OSU's student...
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by Graham Lee Brewer
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Graham Lee Brewer began his career as a journalist covering Oklahoma's vibrant music scene in 2006. After working as a public radio reporter for KGOU and then Oklahoma Watch he went on to cover the Oklahoma Senate for eCapitol before joining the...
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