An emergency injunction filed by the OSDH against the Okmulgee County Criminal Justice Authority (OCCJA) was dismissed at a hearing on Wednesday morning.
Lawyers for the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) were hoping the injunction would prevent the OCCJA from “obstructing or restricting OCDH inspectors access to the entire facility, all detainees, and records.”
Two of the biggest issues discussed were: the health department not being allowed to use their state-issued cell phones to complete the inspection, and their inability to access federal detainees.
Joshua Anderson, representing the OSDH, said, “The Oklahoma State Department of Health has both statutory authority and regulatory oversight over this detention facility.”
Eric Stall, representing the OCCJA, argued that is not the case.
“If the district attorney is not prosecuting a case involving a juvenile, it is not under the purview of the Oklahoma code because the statute says that any child that is subject to the Oklahoma juvenile code SHALL be prosecuted by the district attorney.”
He went on to say that any argument about irreparable harm to the State “fails” because the juveniles are not in the custody of the State.
Anderson also said that use of the cell phones helps to provide accurate inspection data and the concerns around contraband cell phones are no basis to prevent an inspection – especially when inspectors are escorted throughout the facility by OCCJA staff.
“The OSDH has determined that using cell phones versus cameras, laptops, and desktop scanners is a more efficient way of conducting inspections. It’s less disruptive, and by using cell phones to gather photographic evidence of observed deficiencies OSDH is able to gather evidence in real-time,” Anderson said. He added that the timestamps and other metadata included in the cell phone pictures further help to ensure more accurate inspection results.
Stall also questioned the timing of the injunction. He said that the initial report that mentioned juveniles having to walk by cells occupied by adults came out 18 months ago, and asked why the emergency injunction was just being filed. Stall also argued that the timing of the filing indicated that it was not an emergency.
Judge Pandee Ramirez also asked about the timing of the filing.
“July of ‘22 , was when the inspection determined there were juveniles there, and you gave them a 60-day cycle to correct that. We would still be back in September of ‘22 with an emergency. Why is it an emergency today when it wasn’t one then.”
Anderson answered that the reason for the delay was that there are over 130 facilities that the agency has authority over, and having the resources to get back out to each facility can delay things. Additionally, facilities dealing with public health violations and other conditions may also take precedence over other issues.
Ultimately, Judge Pandee Ramirez ruled that “the plaintiff has failed to meet their burden” in asking for an emergency injunction.
Shannon Clark, Executive Director of the OCCJA, reached out to the Times in response to Judge Ramirez’s decision.
“I applaud District Judge Ramirez’s decision to deny both these frivolous petitions. This was nothing more than a bully tactic and broad overreach of authority by these two organizations. I take great pride in the OCCJA team and the professionalism of the many competent individuals that work tirelessly to protect the detained population held in the OCCJA facilities. Including those held in tribal and federal custody.”
The Okmulgee Times and Henryetta Free-Lance reached out to the attorneys for the State of Oklahoma but had not received a response by print time.