Wanted: More trustworthy jail inmates

JAMES BEATY | Staff photoPittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris, left,  listens as County Clerk Hope Trammell makes a point following the county commissioners' meeting held Monday at the Pittsburg County Courthouse.

Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris says it's tough to find enough trustworthy inmates in jail these days.

The matter came up Monday when District 1 Pittsburg County Commissioner Charlie Rogers asked Morris if he had any inmate trusties the sheriff could assign to county work crews. Assigning two inmates to each of the three commissioners' districts would be helpful, Rogers suggested.

But Morris said there weren't any more trusty inmates available. He's already using all the available inmates he can trust himself to help out at the county jail.

"I need at least at least six, to run the laundry and the kitchen," Morris said.

County commissioners aren't the only ones to be denied when requesting the use of county jail trusties to contribute physical labor to assist with various tasks.

"The city's asked for them too," Morris said, referring to the city of McAlester. It's not that there's a shortage of inmates in the county jail, with approximately 141 in lockup as of early Monday, according to jail records at the Pittsburg County Justice Center. It's the trusty designation that's the issue.

"We don't want to send them somebody that's going to run," Morris said.

Rogers said that he was hoping to get some county jail inmate trusties assigned to his road crew. The extra manpower is beneficial, the commissioner noted.

"It always helps," Rogers said.

Morris said he's talked with District 18 District Attorney Chuck Sullivan about the issue.

"I asked if he could sentence more people to county time instead of prison," Morris said after the commissioners' meeting. He figured he could find more trustworthy inmates to put to work if he had a larger pool from which to draw.

"They could work and we could use them and try to rehabilitate them," Morris said.

The News-Capital spoke with Sullivan, who said he indeed talked with Morris about the matter.

"It was along the lines of 'can you send more inmates our way?' " Sullivan said.

"We're going to do whatever we can" as long as it's within the guidelines of state statutes, Sullivan said. While only a judge can pass sentence, the district attorney can make recommendations — not only to the court, but also to defendants and their attorneys.

"I can recommend till I'm blue in the face," Sullivan said, but the recommendations can be rejected.

"I can make whatever recommendation I want," Sullivan continued. "I can't force a defendant to take it."

Sullivan said there is a way he could try to send a defendant facing a felony charge to the county jail instead of to state prison.

"You could by plea agreement," he said.

Sullivan said a felony charge calling for prison time could be amended to a misdemeanor through a plea agreement, resulting in a term in the county jail instead of a prison sentence. Even then, there's no way to guarantee how trustworthy the inmate would be once the inmate begins serving in the county jail.

Still, Sullivan indicated he will continue to examine options.

"We will look into what we can do," Sullivan said.

In action during the county commissioners' Monday morning meeting, they:

 • Gave the OK for a road-crossing permit to Cherokee Telephone for a residential line in District 3.

• Approved a contract between Pittsburg County and Eastern Oklahoma Youth Services, Inc. for operation of the Pittsburg County Juvenile Detention Center. Pittsburg County Clerk Hope Trammell said the state will pay$131.84 per inmate to Oklahoma Youth Eastern Oklahoma Youth Services, Inc. for operating the Pittsburg County Juvenile Detention Center.

• Agreed to a contract between Pittsburg County and Eastern Oklahoma Youth Services. Inc. for juvenile detention services at the Pittsburg County Juvenile Detention Center. The county agreed to pay $38.97 per day, per juvenile.   

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.comntial