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OKPolicyCast 40: In prison for what’s now a misdemeanor (with Damion Shade and Colleen McCarty)

by | October 30th, 2018 | Posted in Criminal Justice, Podcast | Comments (4)

The OKPolicyCast is hosted by Gene Perry and produced by Gene Perry and 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.

In 2016, Oklahomans voted to approve State Question 780, which changed simple drug possession crimes and low-level, non-violent property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. That law went into effect on July 1, 2017 and is already reshaping Oklahoma’s justice system, with many fewer Oklahomans being charged with a felony and sent to prison for drug possession.

Yet there are still thousands of Oklahomans serving long prison sentences or living with a felony record and all the serious consequences that come with it for a crime that would now be a misdemeanor. This raises a serious moral and practical question: Is it just to keep imprisoning those people when Oklahomans have clearly said that their crime should not lead to prison?

To get at this question and what might be done about it, I spoke with OK Policy’s criminal justice analyst Damion Shade, as well as Colleen McCarty, a law student and intern with Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform’s commutation campaign, which is advocating to commute the sentences of some of those Oklahomans most dramatically affected by felony possession charges before SQ 780.

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

In The Know: Oklahoma’s family-‍separation crisis; gearing up for 2020 Census; one week left until election day…

by | October 30th, 2018 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

In The News

America’s other family-‍separation crisis: America imprisons women in astonishing numbers. The population of women in state prisons has increased by more than eight hundred per cent in the past four decades. The number of women in local jails is fourteen times higher than it was in the nineteen-seventies; most of these women haven’t been convicted of a crime but are too poor to post bail while awaiting trial. Nowhere is this problem starker than in Oklahoma. [The New Yorker] Women and girls are one of the fastest growing populations in America’s jails and prisons, and their numbers are increasing rapidly, even as incarceration rates fall for other demographics. [Jezebel]

Oklahoma officials gearing up for 2020 Census: Oklahoma officials Monday announced that they’ve started gearing up for the upcoming U.S. Census — even though it’s still more than 500 days away. “It will come really quick,” said Joe Chiappe, director of research and economic analysis with Oklahoma Department of Commerce. Tied to billions in federal funding, the census is used to determine the number of representatives the state gets in Congress as well as to redistrict state House and Senate seats, Chiappe said. Private businesses also rely on the data to determine new locations and business expansion plans. [Woodward News]

Oklahoma has fifth-highest youth obesity rate: Oklahoma youth had the fifth-highest obesity rate in the country, and it may actually be worse, since the data relies on parents to estimate their children’s heights and weights. About 18.7 percent of Oklahoma kids ages 10 to 17 had obesity in 2016 and 2017, according to a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. [NewsOK]

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Applications open for Spring interns!

by | October 29th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

**Applications for our 2019 Spring Internships are now closed.**

OK Policy is now accepting student applicants for paid part-time internships during the spring of 2019! Interns have the opportunity to work as full members of the OK Policy team and participate in most activities of the organization.

  • Public Policy Internship (Tulsa office) – Policy interns may be asked to write blog posts on state policy issues, help with data collection and formatting, assist with our advocacy efforts, help to coordinate events, and help with office administration. 
  • Open Justice Oklahoma Data Internship (Tulsa office) – OJO interns are expected to assist in the collection, cleaning, and analysis of criminal justice data, conduct research and write blog posts on criminal justice related issues, and help with office and program administration.
  • Legislative Advocacy Internship (Oklahoma City office) – Advocacy interns work with the Outreach & Legislative Director to advance our policy agenda at the state capitol and with other advocacy organizations, keep records of legislative progress (including meeting notes and vote counts), and help with OK Policy events. 

Interns in all positions will be expected to work between 15 and 20 hours per week depending on their schedules and availability and are paid $11.00 per hour. We are happy to cooperate with your institution’s requirements for academic credit.

Internships are open to both current undergraduate and graduate students (must have completed a minimum of 24 hours of college credit) and to recent grads (Spring 2018 or later). Go here to learn more and to apply. Applications are due no later than 5:00 PM on Friday, November 16th.

Interim studies grapple with foster care changes, the cost of child care, and family reunification (Capitol Update)

by | October 29th, 2018 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Children and Families | Comments (0)

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 House committee on Children, Youth and Families last week considered three separate interim studies. The first concerned the new federal Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018, a new law to redirect federal foster care funding. Importantly, it does not provide new federal funding; it just redesigns the programs. Included in the effort are new evidence-based methods to prevent children from being removed from their homes and more appropriate placements for the children who are removed. There are several problems with Oklahoma implementing this new law, the most important of which is funding. First, there is a “maintenance of effort” requirement that will require us to bring our current expenditures for the programs covered back to 2014 levels before we can claim federal funding. Second, will be finding the state funds for the 50 percent match. The federal law gives states 2 years to implement it, and it looks like Oklahoma will postpone our effort at least 1 year.

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In The Know: Prosecutors resist justice reform; rural hospitals in critical condition; little diversity on state boards…

by | October 29th, 2018 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

In The News

Oklahoma prosecutors resist push for prison alternatives: Since the days of frontier justice, lawmakers in conservative Oklahoma have viewed harsh prison sentences as the politically expedient solution to crime, including nonviolent offenses. That approach has imposed a high price, leaving the state with the nation’s highest incarceration rate, overcrowded prisons and skyrocketing costs. Now, after years of steady debate, there’s growing agreement — even among conservatives — that changes are needed. [AP News]

Oklahoma’s rural hospitals in critical condition: When your life depends on it, Americans expect to have quality health care options within reach. As we’ve been reporting, the only hospital in Garvin County, Oklahoma, closed its doors earlier this month. And countless other rural hospitals across the state are also on life support. From Atoka to Antlers, the existence of rural Oklahoma hospitals has been threatened by decreased funding, a domino effect that’s been years in the making. [KTEN] We previously discussed why rejecting federal funds is devastating Oklahoma’s rural hospitals here.

Fallin legacy will include few women, minorities on state boards: Mary Fallin made history as the state’s first female governor, but her appointments leave a legacy of white male control on some of the state’s major boards. The governor has the power to make appointments to a variety of state boards and commissions. [NewsOK 🔒] In a city that is becoming increasingly diverse, the boards, commissions and trusts that shape almost all municipal policy in Oklahoma City have a glaring lack of diversity. [NewsOK 🔒]

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The Weekly Wonk: Class size matters; fixing online sales taxes; priorities for justice reform…

by | October 28th, 2018 | Posted in Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

This week Education Policy Analyst Rebecca Fine described why investing in reducing class sizes should be the next step to undo the damage caused by years of education cuts. Executive Director David Blatt said Oklahoma should require all remote sellers to collect state taxes to prevent the loss of revenue and ensure an even playing field for brick-and-mortar retailers and their online competitors.

In his weekly Journal Record column, Blatt wrote about Oklahoma’s upside-down tax system and how restoring the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit would provide some balance to the tax system. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update listed three priorities for criminal justice reform that would yield both immediate and long-term results.

OK Policy in the News

Outreach and Legislative Director Bailey Perkins sat down with Ben Felder and Dale Denwalt of NewsOK’s Political State to discuss the gubernatorial elections. Blatt spoke with Wayne Green of the Tulsa World for an editorial on how Oklahoma’s tax system got so regressive. In a story in The Ada News, a candidate for House District 25 cited OK Policy’s recent tax analysis during a debate. 

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In The Know: Education budget request seeks to reduce class sizes; Oklahoma Adult Promise scholarships; OKC has high rate of water shut-offs…

by | October 26th, 2018 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

In The News

Hofmeister’s new education budget request seeks to reduce class sizes, invest in more school counselors: The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Thursday green-lighted a request for FY 2020 funding that includes $253 million largely aimed at reducing class sizes across the state. Another $58 million in the state Education Department’s budget request to the Oklahoma Legislature would add more school counselors to support students with college and career planning, as well as personal hardships. [Tulsa World] Earlier this week we wrote about why restoring Oklahoma’s class size standards is important to improve education.

New adult degree completion program targets Oklahoma’s critical occupations: The state has awarded Oklahoma’s Promise tuition scholarships to new high school graduates for 26 years. Now, higher education officials are making a promise to help adults who left college early to finish what they started. The Oklahoma Adult Promise program is being funded with a $777,000 three-year grant from Lumina Foundation to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. [NewsOK]

Water Shut-Offs: New report shows OKC has one of the highest rates: A nonprofit says it has conducted a first-of-its-kind survey that shows more than a half-a-million American households lost water service two years ago because they couldn’t pay. The report released Wednesday by the Washington-based advocacy group Food & Water Watch says more than 1.4 million people living in those homes at least temporarily lost water service for nonpayment in 2016. [AP News] You can read the full report from Food & Water Watch here.

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In The Know: Class size matters; Tulsa schools oppose truancy criminalization; OKC looks at school closures…

by | October 25th, 2018 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

In The News

Beyond Teacher Pay: Class size matters: Last April, the Oklahoma Legislature passed HB1010xx and other revenue measures, which restored $480 million dollars of education funding.  The majority of the new revenue is being used to fund a long-awaited pay raise for teachers.  HB1010xx also increased funding for school operations by $50 million, which is far less than the $200 million teachers demanded, and makes up less than one-third of the amount that has been cut from schools since 2008.  Now, as students across the state settle into the 2018-2019 school year, public school administrators must again struggle with how to allocate insufficient resources. [OK Policy]

TPS leaders oppose proposed school truancy ordinance, allege it disproportionately targets minorities: Top officials at Tulsa Public Schools have asked city councilors to hold off on approving a controversial ordinance that would impose fines on truant students and their families. Superintendent Deborah Gist, school board President Suzanne Schreiber and Vice President Cindy Decker this week penned a letter opposing the school truancy ordinance. [Tulsa World] We wrote about better options than punitive responses to truancy and homelessness here.

OKC schools chief seeks input on possible closures: Oklahoma City Public Schools is asking families, staff and others to weigh in on a far-reaching project that could lead to school closures and consolidations in the coming year. The district, which is operating at about 60 percent of capacity, is facing $11 million in cuts to state aid over the next two years based on projected enrollment declines. [NewsOK 🔒]

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Beyond Teacher Pay: Class size matters

by | October 24th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (5)

Last April, the Oklahoma Legislature passed HB1010xx and other revenue measures, which restored $480 million dollars of education funding.  The majority of  the new revenue is being used to fund a long-awaited pay raise for teachers.  HB1010xx also increased funding for school operations by $50 million, which is far less than the $200 million teachers demanded, and makes up less than one-third of the amount that has been cut from schools since 2008.  Now, as students across the state settle into the 2018-2019 school year, public school administrators must again struggle with how to allocate insufficient resources.

One commonly cited challenge that educators and students talked about during the walkout was growing classroom sizes, and that concern is well founded. One of the most consistent findings in education research is that class size impacts student outcomes.  It is also a factor that state legislatures can directly control through legislative action.  Funding class size limits would build on the progress made last spring, and likely improve education outcomes in Oklahoma.  

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In The Know: State workers ask for raise; a chance to fix online tax problem; the recipe for voter turnout…

by | October 24th, 2018 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

In The News

State workers asking lawmakers for pay raise: With just weeks before the election and less than three months before the start of the legislative session, state workers are asking lawmakers not to forget about them. Tuesday afternoon, members of the Oklahoma Public Employee’s Association met at the state capitol. Their goal: to fight for more state funding and a pay raise for 2019. State employees and retirees spoke about the challenges of low staffing levels and low pay. [KFOR]

Court ruling gives Oklahoma the chance to fully fix online tax problem: As online commerce has grown into an ever-increasing share of the U.S. economy, Oklahoma and other states have struggled with the problem of lost tax revenue from untaxed sales. A major Supreme Court ruling this past June, combined with actions by the Oklahoma Legislature and major online retailers, will largely address the problem and generate a substantial boost in tax revenue for state and local governments. But there one final step Oklahoma should still take to prevent the loss of revenue and ensure an even playing field for brick-and-mortar retailers and their online competitors. [OK Policy]

The recipe for Oklahoma’s low voter turnout rate: In America, just under 56 percent of the voting age population cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential election, according to the Pew Research Center. For Oklahoma, it was 49 percent. For the June 26 primary election, about 43 percent of registered Oklahoma voters cast ballots, Tulsa World analysis shows. [Tulsa World] In a recent episode of the OKPolicyCast, we talked about what influences voter turnout. 

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