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Hendrix: Jailers not going through $186,000 body scanner

By March 14, 2024March 15th, 2024No Comments

McCurtain County Jail Administrator Larry Hendrix on Tuesday did not call a jail whistleblower a liar, and even confirmed some of what the person alleged.

John Williams, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners and a member of the five-member jail trust, had asked for agenda items on some of the allegations raised by the whistleblower, whom this newspaper had vetted before its recent interview with the person.

The jail trust met Tuesday.

The whistleblower had alleged that jailers were not being required to pass through the jail’s body scanner, though for some time even jail trust members and county commissioners have been required to walk through it.

“I had asked you before who all goes through the body scanner, and you told me it’s procedure for all the jailers to go through it before their shift starts, and apparently that’s not happening,” said Williams.

“Nope,” said Hendrix, “because they’re simply not doing it.’

He added, “They’re people. I don’t how you want to label it, just not being done, but as an administrator it puts me in a position do you paper them every time and end up firing a majority of your staff, because they want to behave like children? Then you don’t have nobody to work, so you have to balance that out.”

Trust member Dick Pogue said he had been against the purchase of the $186,000 machine when it was bought. Yes, Oklahoma County and Tulsa County have them, he said, but many other counties don’t.

But now that the county has the machine, “I want to see it used. They should be scanned.”

“It boils down to it being a cultural issue,” said Hendrix.

Trust member Lonnie Watson said they should not only be scanned, but a written log should be made of their being scanned.

Hendrix said they do intend to go to a system like that.

Watson asked if the sheriff is required to go through the scanner.

Sheriff Kevin Clardy, who is chairman of the trust, said he is the only person, by law, who is not required to go through the scanner, even when he has a gun.

Two other points raised by the whistleblower drew less discussion.

Hendrix said he didn’t know why a whistleblower was even needed on the allegation that no fire drills were being done. He said the monthly “fire drills” are essentially a verbal review of procedures, and those do meet the requirements and the approval of both the jail inspector and the state fire marshal. No, inmates are not removed from cells.

Watson asked about evacuations during fires. Hendrix felt that should not be discussed at a public meeting, and the sheriff agreed, saying it could cause a “breach” in security.

Watson did not seem to be pleased with that response, but Hendrix said he would be happy to go over the Fire Evacuation Plan with him in private.

The whistleblower had also alleged that inmates sometimes have to sleep on mats on the floor.

Hendrix said this does sometimes occur during periods of overcrowding, and it could happen soon in the female part of the jail which is near maximum capacity now.

“Once you get overpopulated, you have no choice,” Hendrix said.

He suggested overcrowding due to the upcoming eclipse could also require some inmates to have to sleep on the floor.

The agenda did not include discussion and jail trust members did not raise another allegation raised by the white whistleblower, of black inmates sometimes being treated “like garbage” and differently from how white inmates are treated.

As at the last meeting, there was substantial discussion on Johnson Control not making repairs to its equipment at the jail.

This time, trust members discussed it again and suggested contacting an attorney about potential litigation. The problem has repeatedly been listed as a deficiency by jail inspectors.