NEWKIRK, Okla. (KOKH) — A criminal investigation into actions at one county jail is nearing an end, and what was found could potentially cost taxpayers in the form of civil penalties.
FOX 25 has confirmed the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has issued a report into the treatment of inmates at the Kay County Detention Center. The investigation centered on complaints that FOX 25 also looked into that one group says was tantamount to torture.
When confronted by FOX 25, jail administrators admitted a practice known inside the jail as “crucifixion” was happening to inmates.
“It is exactly what the name implies,” said Brady Henderson, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma which is now also looking into the jail issues. “The key feature of a ‘crucifixion’ handcuffing is that you take a detainee’s arms and you put one one direction as far as it will go and you put the other the other direction as far as it will go.”
FOX 25 has learned there is video of at least one of these “crucifixion” handcuffings obtained by the OSBI and presented to Kay County District Attorney Brian Hermanson.
“[Crucifixion cuffing] is not that dissimilar from the rack, an old torture means used in medieval Europe,” Henderson said. “The concept is just to painfully stretch somebody and in this case instead of wanting them to talk or wanting them to do a particular thing you are doing it as a punishment.”
In one instance, Henderson told FOX 25 an inmate was kept cuffed with his arms outstretched until the cuffs cut into his wrists causing him to bleed.
The Kay County Detention Center is run by a trust, not the sheriff’s office, so FOX 25 went to the most recent meeting of the board that oversees the jail. We wanted to ask the jail director, Don Jones, about the investigation into his jail; starting with questions about ‘crucifixion.’
When asked if the ‘crucifixion’ cuffing was still happening, Jones said, “As far as I know it is not.” He says that type of punishment was not appropriate, but declined to say if anything was being done about the fact ‘crucifixion’ was used to punish inmates in the first place. “That’s under investigation at the moment,” Jones said.
In another incident, identified by the ACLU and discussed in internal jail emails, a jail supervisor put rival gang members together in a common area. A fight ensued ending with an African American inmate being injured by white supremacist gang members.
“There is only one reason to do that,” Henderson said of the putting rival gang members together, “and that is if you basically want to have a gladiator school; that is the term that is often used, slang term in jails and prisons.”
There were never criminal charges filed against the gang member who caused the injury.
In an email exchange with a board member discussing claims by the injured inmate’s brother that he had not received treatment for his stab wound, Jones wrote “He was stabbed…can see on video. Got a crap load of medical documentation. Last tues [sic] went for his 2nd or 3rd out of jail doctor visit.”
However, when FOX 25 requested the video the jail said no video of the incident existed.
When asked about what happened, Jones denied a stabbing occurred.
“He was not stabbed, autocorrect must have got my correct, or my uh email,” Jones told FOX 25.
Jones says each of the multiple times in his email chain where he admitted the stabbing happened and there was video of it, he actually meant the opposite and blames the “autocorrect” feature of his email for changing his words to say, multiple times, the exact opposite of what he meant.
“I understand that, auto correct, he was not stabbed if anything he might have been cut, a stab and a cut is two different things.”
In another email about the same incident, Jones also told a trust member that it was a “whiteboy” who “knocked the crap” out of the African American inmate.
“[Inmate] was…was one of the biggest bully’s [sic] we have had,” Jones wrote. Jones said the “whiteboy” had “totally punked [sic] him out” and of the inmate complaining wrote “Im [sic] sure he is scared cause [sic] someone stood up to him.”
When asked about his emails regarding his description of the attack and how the inmate was no longer a bully because of the attack, Jones said “Take what you want out of it.”
The ACLU of Oklahoma told FOX 25 it is just beginning its investigation by interviewing current and former jail employees as well as current and former inmates. The group also plans to review public records, including those FOX 25 has already obtained, before determining the extent of the legal action it will take against Kay County.
Kay County District Attorney Brian Hermanson told FOX 25 he could not comment on the investigation. However, FOX 25 has learned he has been in possession of the case for several weeks. Hermanson said, despite his role as the attorney for the county, he would not be turning over the case to an outside prosecutor.