Another quality Oklahoma Policy Blog piece (JCO)

Mike Connelly, JCO

We regularly laud the OK Policy Blog as a jewel among the policy-oriented blogs for any state. In a “good government” state and/or a fair world, the whole staff would be driving Beemers and on their third or fourth spouses (spice?) by now. But they work, Sisyphus-like in Oklahoma, and yet still amazingly turn out what ranks as the very best public analysis of state policy in the whole country, IMHO as someone who goes through state news and sites every day (really, pretty sad, isn’t it?). And this post on where OK is on Justice Reinvestment right now (“black hole” is not an inappropriate thought at this point, but it’s not where they go in this piece) is People’s Exhibit A.

You can look all over state government in your state and rarely find in-house analysis done for governors and legislators any better than this, much less the usual newspaper account. You get listed each JRI reform, where it is in implementation, and, in some cases, what might still help it happen. We have a couple of addenda we would include—private providers can build the “intermediate revocation facilities” discussed (which was part of the plan to get the private prison industry support there), simple focus grouping would have told the consultants what the probability of judges/DAs using pre-sentence assessments would be, and the assessment for mental health/substance abuse problems falls into the same category. We love the hopeful feel given to the latter—“if” courts use them and “if” treatment gets funded and “if” we clap our hands louder, Tinker Bell will get well and “if,” well, you get it. They have to be nice because they’re policy professionals and we’re just cranky old bloggers in our pajamas drinking Guin . . . milk. They also don’t get into the problem with claiming “savings” from future spending that takes no account of whether the state projects having dollars to do that spending or not and why we would expect that spending growth when the previous decade saw greater prison population growth without anything close to that growth in spending, much less the failure to deal with the state’s costly growth of its aging inmate population that never got figured in. But read that sentence again and see if you would have wanted to write it.

We do admit to one surprise in the how the JRI implementation [sic] played out, and that’s the failure of the Attorney General to this point to use the authority given him to dole out grants to law enforcement and build up their support of him if/when he runs for governor someday. We’ve noted that another genius idea of the JRI effort there was to make the AG the official “evaluator” of the success of the reforms and letting him pass out bucks, then pronounce their results all good didn’t seem to be the smartest thing to do according to smart people everywhere. But maybe he figured out that not only did he not have any professional or experienced evaluators of programs, he lacked them for grant proposals, too. Maybe he doesn’t have the resources, maybe he doesn’t like the idea of big gov’t enough to refuse to be part of state intrusion into local policy, maybe he’s just waiting until the current governor can’t be reelected. In any case, while that’s still a fuse leading to potential explosives, he’s refused to light it yet, and the taxpayers can be thankful their dollars aren’t just going to offset budget cuts in local police departments that can now name those staff “violent crime fighters” and keep them on the payroll.

Anyway, the thing that’s best about what the small but wiry team at OK Policy Blog isn’t just the quality of their analysis. They are among the few voices forcing Reality into policy discussions in that state, not just in Corr Sent but across the board. And they have had the courage to take on the powers-that-be, including the governor and legislators as well as other “think tanks” and media, when decisions are considered or made that clearly fit the crony-ism mold of the state’s “traditionalistic” political culture, only right now on steroids. Here is more proof, their statement of the Reality of OK’s effort right now:

We are wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on unnecessary incarceration, tearing non-violent offenders away from their families, and putting both corrections officers and inmates at serious risk. The problem is in plain view, and we know what needs to be done. What’s still missing is the courage of elected officials to take on the status quo and do what is right.

Absolutely and completely right, and rarely stated in OK or, frankly, most states right now. At least reward them with some hits, multiple times, send this to your friends and that guy who keeps sending you the stories about bulldogs that climb trees. Get their performance measures up so they can show their funders that defenders of Reality and good government do have an audience. Even if not a majority in Oklahoma.



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.