Between 2009 and 2018, 215 people died in Oklahoma jails, according to data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

In 2019, The Frontier is launching a project to track every jail death in the state. We’re calling this project Cell by Cell.

We hope to uncover more about how and why people die in Oklahoma jails. Each of the state’s 77 counties has at least one jail, and several cities have police lockups. In rural parts of the state, deaths often go unnoticed, and occasionally, unreported.

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More from this series:

Cell by Cell: With low starting pay and high turnover, Oklahoma County struggles to fully staff jail

“It’s just a merry-go-round of employees who are always starting and quitting within three months, a very short period.”


Trucker who died of pneumonia in Atoka Co. Jail told police he was sick, video shows

Michael James Hoeppner was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving and died from pneumonia in jail. He had told an arresting officer — at least twice — that he was sick.


Cell by Cell: Suspected of driving drunk, a long-haul trucker died in jail—but he actually had pneumonia

Michael Hoeppner wasn’t high or drunk — just deathly ill. He died in an Oklahoma jail without medical treatment.


Cell by Cell: State leaders look to remove juveniles from Oklahoma adult jails

“We do have space in our juvenile facility for these kids and they shouldn’t be held in our jail.” — Oklahoma County Commissioner Carrie Blumert


Cell by Cell: The complete list of people who have died in Oklahoma jails in 2019

The Frontier is tracking every jail death in Oklahoma in 2019. We hope to uncover more about how and why people die in Oklahoma jails. 


Cell by Cell: A teenage suicide sheds light on a lack of oversight for juveniles in county jails

Oklahoma jails that hold minors aren’t subject to the same standards or state oversight as juvenile detention centers.


Cell by Cell: Oklahoma County jail’s poor design contributes to safety, security issues

Construction of the Oklahoma County jail was funded by a temporary penny sales tax that built the problem-riddled facility. But there was no new, permanent source of revenue to totally pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the jail after the sales tax expired.


Cell by Cell: Oklahoma has 1.5 state inspectors for its 131 jails

The Jail Inspection Division used to be staffed by four employees. Now, the agency has only one full-time and one part-time employee inspecting more than 100 jails in the state.