Oklahoma sheriff resigns after judge orders her to reopen unsafe jail


A Sheriff in Oklahoma has tendered her resignation after a judge ordered her to reopen a jail building that had dangerous levels of carbon monoxide and exposed wiring.

Nowata County Jail has been closed for weeks after employees were taken to the emergency room from a dangerous carbon monoxide leak. 

The leak occurred approximately three weeks ago, but the building is not ready to be reopened, according to then Sheriff Terry Sue Barnett. The leak ended up sending 4 employees to the hospital back on February 28th.

The judge told Barnett that she would either reopen the jail for prisoners or be held in contempt of court. Barnett argued that the conditions of the jail are such that they “do not comply with the constitutional standards” for prisoners.

Oklahoma sheriff resigns after judge orders her to reopen unsafe jail
Terry Sue Barnett tendered her resignation on Monday, March 18th.

The fire department’s test for carbon monoxide reportedly measured an 18 on the scale, where a lethal level is 20. The exposed wiring is reportedly in shower areas. Barnett said in her statement that, “inmates have been actually shocked while taking a shower.”

Barnett reportedly asked the Judge, “Are you compromising my integrity?”

He did not respond. 

She continued to document a multitude of other issues including exposure to mold for both employees and inmates and “improper” plumbing facilities.  The jail is reportedly operating with minimal staff and is inadequately funded.

Her full statement to the press can be watched here.

She wasn’t the only one to quit that day, according to a report. The Undersheriff, five deputies, the head dispatcher, the jailers, and even the K-9, “Ranger” quit on Monday the 18th. The K9’s handler worked to get a paw print on a resignation letter. Several volunteer dispatchers said they plan to stay and answer the phones, though the office is otherwise empty.

The Sheriff said she leaves with her honor intact. “I will not sweep things under the rug for Nowata County, I am not going to do the wrong thing,” she said.

She finished her statement to the judge by stating, “I feel that Nowata County is an extremely corrupt county.”



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