Clergy and activists demand the ousting of Greg Williams from Jail Trust

On Friday, a new member of the trust overseeing the Oklahoma County Jail called for a change in leadership at the struggling 13-story facility.

The Reverend Derrick Scobey spoke out shortly after a group of local clergy and community activists met and called for Greg Williams to be ousted as prison administrator.

“Prison remains a place of death, horror and evil and I am committed to addressing these current conditions with all my might,” Scobey said in a prepared statement.

“The question is no longer why should we fire Oklahoma County Detention Center Administrator and CEO Greg Williams. … The question is why should we keep him on?”

Williams spoke in his own defense on Friday, and he was backed by Jim Couch, president of the prison trust. The trust took over the operation of the jail on July 1, 2020 from the sheriff’s office.

“From the day I accepted this position, I have been focused on improving conditions and operations at the Oklahoma County Jail,” Williams said in a prepared statement. building, I will continue to work hard every day to make our facility as safe as possible for our staff and inmates.

For his part, Couch said Williams had done a “great” job under “difficult” circumstances.

“In his time as CEO of the Oklahoma County Jail, Greg Williams has provided excellent service to our community, especially the inmates and prison staff,” Couch said in a prepared statement. “In extremely difficult circumstances, including a global pandemic, he oversaw projects that brought material improvements to conditions, reversing decades of neglect at the facility.”

Couch said the trust is constantly working to increase staff numbers and remain vigilant against contraband while recognizing that “a lot of work remains to improve safety and security and, most importantly, to do everything we can to stop the death in the establishment”.

A group of local preachers and community activists held a press conference on Friday to express concern over a worrying series of issues at the prison under Williams’ watch, including 14 inmate deaths this year. The group cited the death of inmates, the rape of an inmate and a hostage crisis as reasons they believe an immediate change in leadership is needed.

Friday’s call for his withdrawal is among the latest criticism leveled at Williams. He has already been criticized for the alarming number of inmate deaths at the prison, as well as other issues the group meeting on Friday discussed.

Ministers, Clergy concerned for spiritual renewal; Reverend Shannon Fleck, executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches; community activists including Jabee Williams and Jess Eddy; and Oklahoma City NAACP President Garland Pruitt said Williams should resign or be fired.

“It is clear to me and to those here that Mr. Williams is incapable of righting the ship,” the Reverend John A. Reed, president of the Concerned Clergy group, said at the press conference at Fairview Baptist Church, where he is the longtime senior pastor.

Eddy said the group is calling on the prison to replace Williams with an interim leader and embark on a nationwide search for a new administrator, with full transparency and community input throughout the process.

Both Reed and activist Jabee Williams said it was important to note that they liked Greg Williams, but growing problems at the prison showed he was not the right person to be a prison administrator. The clergy concerned for spiritual renewal is composed primarily of black ministers who lead predominantly black churches in eastern Oklahoma County.

Scobey did not attend Friday’s press conference. He said he thought some of Couch’s comments were his personal opinions, but he said there were parts of the prison trust president’s statements that appeared to be on behalf of the prison trust. and the preacher said that as a member of the trust he was not asked for his contribution to the statement of support for Williams. Scobey, a well-known community leader and senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, was appointed to the prison in September.

“As an individual, I love Prison Administrator Greg Williams, but he did NOT run the Oklahoma County Detention Center in the proper way,” Scobey said in his statement. “Despite Mr Williams’ best efforts, he has not proven himself.

Lose patience

Jabee Williams and Fleck said clergy and community activists have been patient as the prison trust seeks to make improvements to the prison.

However, “enough is enough is enough,” Fleck said.

“We have sat patiently – we have sat patiently with our eyes open, however – and continue to see the atrocities, the traumas and the headlines,” she said. “As clergy in our communities, no one is more connected to humanity on the ground. … That’s why as clergy, as moral leaders in our communities, we don’t We can no longer remain silent in the face of pain and suffering and the community-wide debacle happening in our county jail and call on our jail trust to take action.”

Jabee Williams shared similar statements.

“We can’t just keep talking and keep having meetings and having discussions about what we already know what the problem is,” he said.

Reed said the group still believed the prison trust was the “best path” for a new and improved prison, but the situation with Greg Williams as trustee needs to be resolved.

Meanwhile, Couch, in his statement, thanked members of faith communities and others “who have shared their concerns and their desire to make things better.”

Greg Williams also thanked community members for voicing their concerns.

“I would like to thank the members of the community who share their contribution with us, and especially the groups who come to the table with solutions to help reduce the prison population and connect inmates to assistance that we are not. able to provide inside the facility,” he said.

The prison trust meets again on November 7.

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