Oklahoma County Jail fentanyl
Oklahoma County Jail CEO Greg Williams addresses the jail trust in its regular monthly meeting Monday, March 7, 2022. (Screenshot)

More strip searches, a body scanner for jail employees and extra education among detainees are some of the ways Oklahoma County Jail CEO Greg Williams plans to handle a growing fentanyl problem at the jail, Williams said during today’s meeting of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority.

So far in 2022, the jail has seen at least three detainee deaths, including Kyle Shaw, 36, who was found unresponsive at the jail last month. His death was caused by a possible overdose of fentanyl, according to some reports.

Fentanyl is an extremely potent synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times stronger than morphine. It has become a major problem in the United States in recent years.

“Fentanyl is something that we really have been exposed to, and we have found more and more frequently at the jail,” Williams told the trust. “For every overdose we have at the jail that doesn’t survive, we have 10 or 12 that do survive so that gives us an opportunity to talk to them to find out where they go it and some of the circumstances around that.”

The ways the drug can be brought into the facility are numerous. Williams highlighted the case of a woman who was caught attempting to smuggle marijuana and meth laced with fentanyl into the facility.

“We’ve had some information that detainees were purposely getting arrested in an effort to bring contraband,” he said. “Just one or two slip ups or misses of contraband can be consequential.”

Williams said the drug can easily be smuggled into the facility in other ways that aren’t always so easy to detect.

“We have found a number of letters and cards, even children’s drawings, where they have made the drug into a liquid and painted it on the paper,” Williams said.

The jail will purchase a $200,000 body scan machine to be used at its employee entrance. A jail employee was recently arrested for bringing contraband into the facility.

Williams said expanding strip searches at intake is another method launched to reduce fentanyl and other drugs inside the jail.

“The strip searches at intake we’ve begun doing are more stringent searches of people brought into the detention center,” he said. “This is based on intel and best practices that we’ve found. We’ve also started searching pods any time we find or suspect a hot spot. Then we go in and extract the detainees one by one and search them thoroughly, and then we move them to another pod. We’ve had some success with removing dangerous contraband that way.”

Williams said additional protective equipment has been purchased for staff who are at risk for being exposed to fentanyl, including breathing apparatuses and PPE for mail room staff. Williams said several jail staff members have needed medical treatment after being exposed to the drug.

Williams doesn’t mention voicemail incident

This was Williams’ and the jail trust’s first public meeting since an accidental voicemail recording obtained by NonDoc and published Feb. 8 revealed Williams and the jail’s director of communications, Mark Opgrande, calling the COVID-19 pandemic “the greatest thing that has ever happened to us” and “a built-in excuse” to keep media and other visitors out of the troubled jail.

During the meeting, Williams did not acknowledge the incident during his monthly report to the trust, nor did any member of the trust ask him about it.

While Williams did not address the voicemail, some citizens did.

Criminal justice activist Mark Faulk played several seconds of the clip of Williams talking about COVID being the jail’s friend. He told the trust Williams is not being held accountable.

“Greg Williams would have been fired if he worked for a private corporation,” Faulk said. “No one would tolerate that. We made international news because of that. It was not a one-off thing. It was not them joking around.”

Activist and restaurant owner Sean Cummings criticized the trust for what he said was a lack of response to the voicemail incident.

“You all are supposedly in charge,” Cummings said. “You all. How does anyone get ahold of you? How does anyone do anything? You guys went silent. What a chicken-shit thing to do if you’re in management. You went silent on something that big?”

Multiple members of the have expressed support for Williams’ continued employment following the voicemail’s publication.


‘COVID is our friend’: Jail leader Greg Williams recorded praising pandemic