TULSA - Citing "deplorable" conditions at the Juvenile Justice Center, plus overcrowding and a lack of mental health services at the jail, Tulsa County leaders Thursday announced a petition drive to put a new sales tax on the ballot dedicated to fixing those problems.
Sheriff Stanley Glanz, Undersheriff Tim Albin, District Judge Doris Fransein, County Commissioner Karen Keith, and a number of TCSO personnel gathered to urge the public to take action and help them get the issue on the ballot.
Sheriff Glanz made it clear, it would mean a new, permanent 1/6th of a penny county sales tax.
"I don't want to deceive anyone, it is a new tax. But this is a tax for a problem that we have at juvenile and the jail, and it's a public safety issue, and we think it's very important."
"We feel good about making this 'ask,'" Keith said, "because it is so critical to the infrastructure of this county, for everybody. It's good for the city of Tulsa, it's good for everybody."
The Juvenile Justice Center has terrible problems, they said, including overcrowding and a deteriorating building.
"Go look at the people that are down there working even without air conditioning today," Glanz said. "They shouldn't be asked to work in that type of environment."
"Closets have been converted to offices. There are little holes in the hallway that's somebody's office space," Keith added. "It's not fair to the clients that we're serving, and it's not fair to the staff."
Judge Fransein works at the JJC. "I have one courtroom that can only hold, according to the Fire Marshal, eight individuals. That doesn't even address the room that's is needed to actually hold court. I need four courtrooms that we can do jury trials. We do adoptions. When you're talking about families adopting children sitting next to families whose rights may be terminated sitting next to inmates from the Tulsa County Jail, that is not a good facility."
She said half of the JJC's employees are located offsite, at a shopping center.
Glanz pointed out that mental health facilities were shut down years ago, and the jail has no good way to deal with them, something else the new tax would address.
It would provide for expansion of the jail, which would also address the overcrowding problem.
They need just under 18,000 signatures to get the question on the ballot, and have until September to do so.
Off-duty deputies, and on-duty personnel who are dealing with public safety functions, will fan out to events and neighborhoods throughout the county to urge people to sign the petition.