Oklahoma Sheriff and Deputies Resign Over 'Dangerous' Jail

March 21, 2019 AT 7:30 AM

By Vanessa Romo

An Oklahoma sheriff and nearly all of her staff resigned this week, defying a district judge's reported orders to reopen a county jail that has been closed and evacuated over safety issues.

Nowata County Sheriff Terry Sue Barnett told reporters on Monday that she could not "in good conscience" bring prisoners back to the Nowata County Jail, despite threats of being held in contempt of court. Neither could the county's undersheriff, deputies, the head of the department's dispatch and most of the jail staff, who also tendered their resignations on the same day. Even the canine ranger stepped down, according to Barnett, who added the dog had "resigned with his paw print."

As of Tuesday, only five employees remain on staff, including dispatchers who are redirecting calls to neighboring emergency and law enforcement agencies, Tulsa World reported.

"The condition of the jail is such that it does not comply with constitutional standards," Barnett said, reading off a litany of hazards within the facility, starting with a carbon monoxide leak that led to the shutdown on Feb. 28.

Barnett explained that the cause of the toxic gas emissions, which sent four employees to an emergency room and prompted the removal of more than a dozen inmates to a nearby jail, has still not been determined.

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