When Brandi Garner took over as Interim CEO of the Oklahoma County Detention Center in January, she inherited an aging facility with chronic staffing shortages and a high number of prisoner deaths.

Frontier Managing Editor Brianna Bailey spoke with Garner about her plans to turn things around. 

Garner says the facility is on the verge of a staffing crisis. The starting pay for detention officers is around $3,000 a month. Jail operations have been chronically underfunded for years. 

Still, Garner says she’s already fired problem staff members, increased time out of cells for prisoners and has a plan to reduce the number of deaths at the facility. 

“I want to continue to change our culture into one that is more compassionate and professional,” she said. 

In 2022, 16 people died at the Oklahoma County Detention Center, many from drug overdoses, suicide and chronic medical issues. Jail staff are often unequipped to handle the needs of arrestees who arrive at the facility with complex mental health and medical needs. 

“I absolutely want to see that number reduced, I think it’s unreasonable to expect that it would be zero, although that would be my ultimate goal,” Garner said. 

Garner says she hopes better screening of arrestees for medical problems when they arrive at the jail and obtaining medical bonds for lower-risk detainees with the high medical needs back into the community will help.

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