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OKPolicyCast 35: A frank conversation about criminal justice (with D’Marria Monday, Jill Webb, Erik Grayless, and Kris Steele)

by | August 7th, 2018 | Posted in Criminal Justice, Podcast | Comments (0)

The OKPolicyCast is hosted by Gene Perry with production help from Jessica Vazquez. You can subscribe to our podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre. If you have any questions for the OKPolicyCast, topics you’d like us to cover, or people you want us to interview, you can reach us at policycast@okpolicy.org.

Last week, Oklahoma Policy Institute hosted our annual Summer Policy Institute for about 60 college students from all over Oklahoma. The 4-day event featured speakers and panels on a wide range of topics. For this episode of the OKPolicyCast, we’re sharing the live recording of one of those panels — an interesting, frank, contentious discussion of Oklahoma’s criminal justice system.

If after listening to this you’d like to hear more from panelist Jill Webb, check out Episode 25 of the OKPolicyCast, which features an interview with her.

You can download the episode here, subscribe at the links above, or play it in your browser:

Plea deals have unbalanced Oklahoma’s justice system

by | July 11th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice | Comments (3)

Anna Rouw is an OK Policy summer intern. She recently graduated from the University of Tulsa.

One of the most basic rights for Americans accused of a crime is the right to a fair trial before a jury. However, the vast majority of criminal convictions – 90 to 95 percent – don’t happen at trial. Instead, they’re the result of a guilty plea, a deal negotiated by prosecutors and defense attorneys absent a trial. Plea deals allow defendants to avoid the uncertainty of a months-long trial, and in exchange for a guilty plea, prosecutors generally agree to reduced charges or more lenient sentences. Plea deals are the norm for a number of reasons, but the justice system’s dependence on them is a serious problem. When nearly all criminal cases are resolved outside of the courtroom, the dangers include racially biased sentences, convicting innocent defendants, and a criminal justice system with little transparency or accountability.

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Episode 32: Danielle Allen, from South Central Los Angeles to the Declaration of Independence

by | June 26th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice, Podcast | Comments (0)

You can subscribe to our podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre. If you have any questions for the OK PolicyCast, topics you’d like us to cover, or people you want us to interview, you can reach us at policycast@okpolicy.org.

We’ve got something really special for you today. We’re sharing the recording of an event that Oklahoma Policy Institute co-hosted with Danielle Allen, a Harvard University professor and the author of the new book, “Cuz”. In the book, Allen tells the story of her attempt to rescue her cousin, who was arrested at 15 for an attempted carjacking, was tried as an adult and sentenced to thirteen years. He served eleven years in prison, and three years after coming out of prison, he was dead.

In this conversation between Danielle Allen and Tulsa civil rights attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons, they dig deep into how the inequalities of America — racial inequality, social inequality, economic inequality — play out not just in statistics and political debates, but in the personal dynamics of real individuals and families — as Danielle Allen puts it, in the “rending of kith and kin.” It was a powerful, impactful conversation, ranging all the way from South Central Los Angeles to the Declaration of Independence. It’s worth your time to give a listen.

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A connection between the nation’s highest incarceration and refusal to expand Medicaid? (Capitol Update)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

The latest state-by-state comparison for incarceration rates drew headlines in Oklahoma because we are now number one in incarceration. Rounding out the top ten after Oklahoma are Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Arizona, Kentucky and Missouri. A quick view at the list suggested the question of whether there is a correlation between incarceration rates and Medicaid expansion, so I decided to look.

I found that six of the ten highest incarcerating states have refused to expand Medicaid coverage: Oklahoma, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Texas and Missouri. Louisiana adopted a “demonstration” version of expansion like the Arkansas plan, effective July 1, 2016. Since then it has dropped from Number one to Number two. Arkansas, on March 4, 2014 adopted its private option version of Medicaid expansion. Arizona adopted a private option version of Medicaid expansion but 42 percent of the state’s 773,000 uninsured are eligible but not enrolled in Medicaid due to certain barriers; Kentucky had one of the more successful transitions to Medicaid expansion although it recently changed to a private option plan.

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Accepting our highest-in-the-world incarceration rate means believing that Oklahomans are the worst people

by | June 19th, 2018 | Posted in Criminal Justice | Comments (5)

We knew the day would come when Oklahoma surpassed Louisiana as the highest-incarcerating state in the highest-incarcerating country in the world. After Louisiana’s legislature passed a sweeping criminal justice reform package in 2017, Oklahoma Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh said that he “expect[s] Oklahoma’s incarceration rate to eventually be the country’s highest.”

As it turns out, Oklahoma has had the highest incarceration rate in the world since the end of 2016; we just didn’t know it because federal statistics are released on a year-long lag. This bitter milestone should be an occasion to reflect on what this says about our state and our current justice reform debates. We must begin to ask opponents of reform why Oklahoma deserves to maintain the highest incarceration rate in the world, and what that says about their view of our fellow citizens.

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Oklahoma’s battle to reduce incarceration and increase justice will continue (Capitol Update)

by | June 11th, 2018 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Criminal Justice | Comments (3)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

At the end of last session, one had to wonder if, having passed several criminal justice reform measures, Oklahomans and their leaders would figuratively congratulate themselves, call it done, and move on to other things. It looks like that’s not going to happen. I recently attended a planning session of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform in which national and local voices, including political leaders, from both the conservative and liberal perspective are coalescing around working to take Oklahoma off the list as the number one state for incarcerating its citizens.

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Judges on the Ballot in Oklahoma: What you need to know

by | June 6th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice, Elections | Comments (13)

Photo by julochka / CC BY-NC 2.0

The original version of this post was authored by past OK Policy intern Forrest Farjadian. It was updated for 2018 by OK Policy intern Max West.

Oklahoma is one of 39 states where voters have a role in selecting judges. On November 6, Oklahoma voters will decide whether to retain five Supreme Court justices, two Court of Criminal Appeals judges, and four Court of Civil Appeals judges. Judicial elections usually don’t attract as much publicity as other races, so we’re taking a look at how judges are chosen, what’s at stake in the elections, and how you can learn about the candidates.

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Investments in justice reform are a good start, but savings are a long ways away

by | May 24th, 2018 | Posted in Criminal Justice | Comments (4)

Criminal justice reform advocates should be encouraged – though not overjoyed – at the progress made on justice reform in Oklahoma’s 2018 legislative session. Even in their amended forms, new laws that open up our broken parole process, reduce sentences for many nonviolent crimes, and recalibrate our supervision practices will significantly slow growth in our prison population.

At her press conference to sign those measures, Gov. Fallin also announced that the FY 2019 budget includes funding critical to making justice reform work, including an additional $11 million to the Department of Corrections, $5 million to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and $1.1 million for the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System, among several other appropriations.

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OK PolicyCast Episode 29: What Just Happened

You can subscribe to our podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher, SoundCloud, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre. If you have any questions for the OK PolicyCast, topics you’d like us to cover, or people you want us to interview, you can reach us at policycast@okpolicy.org.

The OK PolicyCast is back! In this episode, we look at what just happened in one of the most tumultuous legislative years in Oklahoma history. Bailey Perkins speaks about what it was like being at the state Capitol before, during, and after the teacher walkout. Carly Putnam shares some major developments in health care policy. And Ryan Gentzler talks about this year’s most important criminal justice legislation, both the good and the bad.

You can subscribe at the links above, download the podcast here, or play it in your browser:

Bill Watch: This year in #okleg

Last week, the Oklahoma legislature adjourned one of the more extraordinary legislative sessions in recent memory – one that followed one special session, ran partially concurrently with another, included nine days of protests at the Capitol, saw the Legislature raise revenues for the first time in nearly 30 years, witnessed a first step in criminal justice reform after years of efforts, and resulted in the largest funding bill in state history (although not if adjusted for inflation). But in all of the confusion and breaking news, it was easy to miss other developments. In the posts below, brief summaries by issue area lay out the major victories and defeats of this spring’s legislative session.

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