Love County officials are turning to its residents to provide a resolution to replace the outdated Love County Jail.
The Love County Commissioners approved a resolution for a special election on Nov. 10. At that time, voters will decide whether to approve a ½-cent sales tax to build and maintain a new jail. A ¼-cent of the sales tax will be on the books for 15 years while the other ¼-cent will be used to maintain the facility and will not have a sunset.
Love County Sheriff Joe Russell said the new facility would house 97 prisoners if approved and will be located just north of town on U.S. Highway 77. The capacity for the existing jail is 30 and routinely houses more than that.
“We are down a little bit,” Russell said Thursday. “We have 47 right now and had 52 on Monday.”
Inmates sleep on the floor when above capacity and while there are security cameras, they come without sound.
“The security cameras are cheap and were cheap when we bought them,” Russell said. “But they are better than nothing.”
When planning a new facility, Russell said he asked for 200 cells and a board studying the project asked for 180 and no less than 150. The commissioners ultimately decided on 97 with a potential for up to 120. Russell said the intent for a higher bed county was to develop revenue by either housing Federal prisoners or Department of Correction inmates. He also felt he the county could relieve other county’s overcrowding as well.
Even though 97 is a big jump from 50, Russell said he expected the jail to be full when it is completed in two and half to three years because of the growth of WinStar Casino. While it is a popular destination for recreation, Russell said it has drawn crime as well.
“It’s Love County’s problem, the problem is here and it’s not going away,” he said.
The biggest issue is drugs Russell said as 70 percent of the inmate population has been arrested on some sort of drug charge. He said he has corresponded with the Chickasaw Nation and in his opinion feels the Chickasaws will help Love County but are waiting to see what officials can do.
“They realize they created some of the problem and are willing to help,” he said.
Russell said he would not be in office to see the completion of the jail. His term expires in 16 months and he will not seek reelection. But he is excited about the impact it will have.
“I am excited for the next sheriff to have a new jail and hopefully he has a better working relationship than we do right now,” he said. “We do the best with what we have.
“Maybe he will be able to do his job better because he will have more to work with.”