City of Tulsa Municipal Jail. CLIFTON ADCOCK/The Frontier

Mike Ashley’s daughter, Reanne, had been in David L. Moss for three weeks when he was told she would be released earlier this month.

But when he arrived at the county jail, Reanne Ashley wasn’t there.

He was told his daughter had not been released, but was instead being held at the county jail awaiting transport to the new Tulsa Municipal Jail because she had several warrants for failure to pay earlier city citations. She was then taken to the city’s municipal jail.

Reanne Ashley owed the city about $1,000, but couldn’t afford to pay the fines, Mike Ashley said.

Mike Ashley is trying to help his daughter get her life back on track. He worried the unexpected time spent in the city’s jail would thwart her re-entry plans, he said. Reanne Ashley could not be reached for comment.

“This is a girl who graduated with honors from OU’s nursing program,” Mike Ashley said. “ I don’t want to complain because I think you get what you deserve, but I don’t see any opening or offering. You’re at the mercy of the powers that be.”

Reanne Ashley. Courtesy/Tulsa Municipal Jail

Reanne Ashley, like other people who have both Tulsa city and county warrants, had found herself in a criminal justice system that has become more complex since the city opened its municipal lockup facility on March 1.

However, city officials say the new system of having two detention facilities located within blocks of each other has helped save taxpayer money and, although it appears more complex, has created greater efficiency for Tulsa police officers, allowing them to get back into the field quicker.

A tale of two jails

The Tulsa Municipal Jail, 600 Civic Center, can hold inmates for up to 10 days and is officially considered a lockup. The lockup holds inmates who have municipal charges and those who have a mix of city charges and state misdemeanor charges.

Municipal charges include driving without a seat belt, public intoxication and driving without a license.

When the city’s jail opened on March 1, it ended a years-long dispute between the city of Tulsa and the county over how much the city should pay to house municipal inmates at David L. Moss, Tulsa County’s jail.

By early 2017, the city and the county had failed to come to an agreement on the matter. Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, who had campaigned on negotiating an agreement, and County Commissioner Ron Peters were in talks for a $1.47 million deal, but it fell through after the full Tulsa County Commission rejected the offer, with one county commissioner asking for double that amount.

In August, Bynum announced the city would enter into an agreement with the Okmulgee County Criminal Justice Authority to hold Tulsa municipal prisoners as the city renovated a lockup facility in the police court building to serve as the municipal lockup.

The agreement with the Okmulgee County Criminal Justice Authority required the city to pay $48 per prisoner per day as well as transportation costs and the cost for reserve deputies to provide the transportation.

At the time, Sheriff Vic Regalado was critical of the move, but city leaders said the plan would end up saving money.

The Tulsa Police Department oversees the city’s lockup, and 25 detention officers from the privately-run G4S Secure Services staff the jail through a $1.6 million contract. When the 30-bed jail is over capacity — or if a sentence is longer than 10 days — inmates are sent to the Okmulgee County Jail, about 38 miles away from Tulsa.

Since the opening of the Tulsa Municipal Jail there have been more than 780 bookings, according to jail records.

Efficiency, cost savings and better outcomes

Prior to the city opening its lockup facility, if an inmate was being held at the Tulsa County Jail on a state charge, but also had a municipal warrant, the municipal case would be handled while the person was in custody on the state charge, said Casey Roebuck, spokeswoman for the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office.

“My understanding was they both had to be taken care of — the municipal and the state — before they could be released,” Roebuck said.

Following the opening of the municipal jail, detention officers at the county jail now alert the Tulsa Police Department if there is a person with municipal warrants who is about to be released, Roebuck said. Once the person is released from the county jail, a Tulsa Police officer will take that person to be booked into the municipal jail to resolve their municipal warrant, she said.

“They take care of the state one, and then if they have a municipal one we hold them if they (Tulsa Police) want to come get them,” Roebuck said. “I’ve seen it happen where somebody got bonded out and they’re all happy, and then they see the TPD officer right outside the door and their face just falls.”

Michelle Brooks, city of Tulsa spokeswoman, said the new system is not redundant since most people booked into the municipal jail usually stay for less than 48 hours and municipal charges are a separate matter from state charges.

“It really doesn’t create a redundancy, because when you have a state charge and a city charge and they’re adjudicated … those sentences are separate, they don’t run at the same time,” Brooks said. “It’s not really a redundancy so much as you have two different violations and you have to serve two separate sentences.”

Under the current system, if a person is arrested on a municipal complaint but also faced a misdemeanor state charge, they are first taken to the city jail and then the county jail, said Amy Brown, Bynum’s deputy chief of staff. If the person is arrested on a municipal complaint, but also faces a state felony complaint, they are usually taken directly to the county jail, she said.

Though the system may appear at first blush more Byzantine than the previous one, it has helped significantly cut the average time required by Tulsa police officers to process municipal inmates into jail, shortened the amount of time municipal inmates must wait to see a judge and made it easier to get arrestees into special service dockets, Brown said.

“I think it’s been incredibly beneficial in terms of our finite field officer times. I think it’s been very beneficial in terms of community outcomes because we are getting people before a judge quicker and disposing of those warrants and open charges much more quickly,” Brown said, pointing to cases where individuals were able to serve their municipal sentence by doing community service work at the jail rather than being ordered to pay a fine or serve a jail sentence.

“It’s little things like that have really helped us to treat people with dignity and adjudicate their criminal issues, but in a way that hopefully improved their outcome,” Brown said.

And for his daughter, a better outcome is what Mike Ashley is hoping for.

After a hearing Friday, Reanne Ashley was given a new payment arrangement for her unpaid fines and released from the municipal jail.

Mike Ashley and his daughter spent Tuesday at the courts trying to get her affairs in order.

“Finally after two days she was released,” Mike Ashley said. “I brought her downtown because we’re trying to get all of her tasks taken care of. It’s a day-to-day thing.”