Juvenile females held on adult crimes in the Tulsa Jail are confined to isolated cells in the jail’s medical unit. The girls can watch a TV placed outside the cells, listening through slots in their doors.

After 11 witnesses and seven days of testimony, jurors in a federal civil trial over alleged rapes in the Tulsa Jail may finally get to deliberate Tuesday.

If so, that decision won’t be the only momentous choice a group of citizens will make Tuesday that impacts the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office. Voters go to the polls throughout the county in the GOP primary to choose from among 10 candidates running for Tulsa County sheriff.

The primary winner will face a lone Democrat in the general election April 5 to replace former Sheriff Stanley Glanz, who resigned in November after he was indicted by a grand jury.

Since Feb. 19, Glanz has sat in a federal courtroom and listened to witnesses testify about whether he and his office failed to protect underage girls in the jail from rape and sexual assaults. He has displayed little emotion during the many hours of testimony and frequent clashes between attorneys.

The plaintiff alleges she was repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted by a detention officer when she was held in the jail at age 17. The assaults allegedly occurred during a four month period in 2010.

The detention officer, Seth Bowers, quit TCSO the day before he was to take a polygraph exam. He later invoked the Fifth Amendment when questioned in a deposition about whether he had sexual contact with the plaintiff, now 23.

His attorney has said invoking the Fifth should not be viewed as an admission of guilt. Though the sheriff’s office found the allegations credible and forwarded charges to the DA, the DA declined to file.

The lawsuit names Glanz individually and Acting Sheriff Michelle Robinette in her official capacity. To prevail against the county, the plaintiff’s attorneys, Dan Smolen and Tom Mortensen, must show the sheriff’s office was “deliberately indifferent” to risks posed to the plaintiff’s health or safety.

Attorney Scott Wood and former Sheriff Stanley Glanz walk out of the federal courthouse on the first day of trial, Feb. 19. Glanz is a defendant in the lawsuit over alleged rapes in the jail. Photo courtesy NewsOn6

Attorney Scott Wood and former Sheriff Stanley Glanz walk out of the federal courthouse on the first day of trial, Feb. 19. Glanz is a defendant in the lawsuit over alleged rapes in the jail. Photo courtesy NewsOn6

After the plaintiff’s attorneys rested their case Monday morning, an attorney for Glanz and Robinette asked U.S. District Judge John Dowdell to toss out the suit, saying the claims had not been proven.

“What conduct is actually at issue here?” asked attorney Guy Fortney. “Not every touch rises to the level of a constitutional violation.”

The girl initially said Bowers had grabbed her butt and breasts, exposed his penis to her and watched her in the shower once. She later told her attorneys she had been raped and forced to perform oral sex on Bowers in the jail.

Several inmates testified that during security checks or while delivering meals, Bowers opened the girl’s cell door and stayed for up to 15 minutes.

Juvenile females who are accused of committing one of 18 serious crimes are held in the Tulsa Jail rather than taken to the county’s juvenile lockup. After her release from jail in 2010, the plaintiff pled guilty to assault with intent to commit a felony and received a deferred sentence.

Dowdell ruled that all but one of the lawsuit’s claims can be considered by the jury.

“A reasonable jury could infer from the evidence that the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office established a practice of housing female juveniles in an isolated area, at times single staffed” and placed inmates such as the plaintiff “at excessive risk of sexual assault.”
Dowdell did dismiss one claim against the sheriff’s office for failure to properly train Bowers.

“Detention officers don’t need to be trained to know that they don’t authorize or condone rapes or groping,” the judge said.

TCSO: Men can supervise juvenile female inmates

The defense presented testimony from two witnesses Monday who supervise detention officers in the jail.

Sgt. Renee Winston testified that underage girls are held in the jail’s medical unit “because that is the most secure place to house them.” Like other witnesses from the sheriff’s office, Winston testified that girls are not assigned their own housing pod because few of them end up in the adult jail.

Records show 24 underage girls were held in the jail during the past 14 months. They are assigned to a group of cells in the medical unit’s north wing, an isolated area separated from the rest of the unit by a locked door.

Meanwhile, juvenile boys are assigned to their own pod, which has a common area that allows them to regularly leave their cells and socialize or watch television. The housing style is known as “direct supervision” because detention officers mingle with the inmates.

Winston testified that TCSO policies requiring female officers to supervise adult female inmates helps the jail avoid problems.

“A male in a female pod, a lot of them (inmates) would like to see that officer because the females would try to get something consensual going,” Winston said.

When possible, Winston and other witnesses said they try to assign a female deputy to the medical unit. However that’s not always possible, she said. During at least one month in question, February 2010, a single male officer supervised the medical unit about 90 percent of the time.


This hallway in the jail’s medical unit leads to a separate area where juvenile females are locked in their cells most of the day.

The plaintiff’s attorneys have argued that such single staffing can give a male officer access to sexually assault girls in the jail.

The girls are on lockdown nearly the entire day except for a few activities such as showering or receiving a visitor.

Mortensen asked Winston whether male officers doing security checks on inmates in the unit would be able to watch underage girls taking showers, changing clothes or using the bathroom in their cells. She agreed that would be possible, if a female office were unavailable.

“I’m sorry, when you’re incarcerated, you’re in the jail, that’s something that you open yourself up to,” she said.

Mortensen asked Winston whether the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, which sets standards for prisons and jails, includes language about male officers viewing female inmates’ in such situations.

“No, not that I can recall.” said Winston, a 26-year veteran who supervises detention officers in the jail.

The federal act states jails “shall implement policies and procedures that enable inmates to shower, perform bodily functions, and change clothing without nonmedical staff of the opposite gender viewing their breasts, buttocks, or genitalia, except in exigent circumstances or when such viewing is incidental to routine cell checks.”

TCSO Sgt. Billie Byrd also testified Monday about staffing and job assignments at the jail. Byrd disagreed with earlier testimony that the medical unit’s north wing is a “blind spot.”

“You can see all the way down there” from the unit’s main desk, she said.

However during the time the plaintiff was held in the jail, large windows flanking the unit’s door were covered with blinds. A tall portable curtain had also been rolled in front of an inmate’s cell in that unit because he was in protective custody due to threats.

Byrd was also asked why female detention officers couldn’t be permanently assigned to the medical unit to ensure more privacy for girls held there.

“Because I don’t have females to put there,” she said. “I had to assign them to (adult) female units. … The higher priority was the adult females.”