In The Know: A look at Oklahoma criminal justice reform, life after prison release, and more

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.

New from OK Policy

Block Builderz, Together Oklahoma host workshop on ending Oklahoma’s cash bail system: Under America’s judicial system, all citizens are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. But that’s not true for people who can’t afford bail. Poverty is criminalized in Oklahoma. Block Builderz and Together Oklahoma are hosting “Saving Our Future: Ending Cash Bail” on Saturday, Jan. 25 at the Historic Vernon AME Church to discuss the devastating effects of the cash bail system on communities and families and what citizens can do to make change. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Community conversation highlights race, policy: An event geared toward knocking down barriers and creating a safe place to express opinions took place at a local elementary school Monday night, encouraging locals to talk about race, equity and public policy. The event was hosted by Together Oklahoma and Thick Descriptions. [The Duncan Banner]

In The News

Oklahoma justice: Last year, Oklahoma saw the largest mass commutation in the nation’s history with nearly 500 people being released early from prisons in November. Damion Shade, Oklahoma Policy Institute criminal justice policy analyst, said this was made possible through a few pieces of legislation. [Oklahoma Gazette] OK Policy has called for bold legislative action to help address Oklahoma’s prison crisis. 

Oklahoma prisoners struggle to find stable housing after release: According to data from the Prison Policy Initiative, people who’ve been incarcerated are almost 10 times more likely to be homeless than the general public. Survey data from Oklahoma City suggests 3 out of 4 homeless people who don’t have shelter have experienced some form of incarceration. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Oklahoma bill would ban minors from being sentenced to life without parole: A bill filed in the Oklahoma legislature could ban sentencing a minor to life in prison without parole. The lawmaker who wrote it says this an attempt to get Oklahoma’s criminal justice statutes in the modern age. [News On 6] OK Policy has previously examined the issue of juvenile life without parole sentences. Last fall, Open Justice Oklahoma issued a report on juvenile justice in Oklahoma

Gov. Kevin Stitt at public safety forum: ‘I want to tell you a true story’: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt told two stories during a Department of Corrections public safety forum that revealed his management style and a surprising personal connection to the criminal justice reform movement. [NonDoc]

Governor releases inaugural accomplishment report: Governor Kevin Stitt released today the 2019 Stitt Administration Annual Accomplishments ReportThe inaugural report focuses on the Stitt administration’s progress thus far and displays the work being done to improve transparency, accountability and efficiency in state government. [Bartlesville Radio

Local legislator tackling ‘surprise billing’ issue: State lawmakers are hoping to ease the health care burden during the upcoming legislative session in February, as three representatives have announced their intention to end “surprise billing.” [CNHI]

Rules affecting 4-day school weeks advance to Legislature: New rules that could curtail four-day school weeks were adopted Thursday by the Oklahoma State Board of Education. The board left open the possibility for schools to operate four days a week, but getting permission to do could become much more difficult starting in the 2021-22 school year. [The Oklahoman]

Ginnie Graham: Oklahoma needs a ‘big bang’ in education to make real progress: The notion of an “education big bang” in Oklahoma caught my attention while reading a Facebook thread targeted at teachers. Tulsa Rep. John Waldron posed a question asking what it would take to keep them on the job or coax them back into the profession. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

Joe Dorman: More school counselors would help diminish adverse childhood experiences: Sometimes, schools are the only safe haven for children experiencing severe trauma at home. To do this the right way, we need to have more counselors in our schools who are properly trained to handle such situations and help prevent chaos in the classroom, which no teacher should have to endure. [Joe Dorman / The Duncan Banner] OK Policy has previously explored how improving the financial well-being of families creates healthier and economically thriving communities.

Stitt confident state will prevail in legal dispute with tribes over gaming: Gov. Kevin Stitt said Thursday he is confident he will prevail in a lawsuit brought by the state’s three largest gaming tribes in a dispute about compacts. [Tulsa World] On Thursday, tribes responded to the court filing by pressing their position that they’ve lived up to terms of their legal agreement with Oklahoma, while the state has not. [The Journal Record ????]

Gov. Stitt bans state-funded travel to California, citing ‘Oklahoma’s pro-life stance’: In what Gov. Kevin Stitt says is reprisal after the city of San Francisco banned public employees from traveling to Oklahoma, the governor announced Thursday that Oklahoma employees will be banned from state-funded travel to California. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma medical marijuana numbers soar past other states, OMMA starting to see shrink: A new report shows nine Oklahoma cities are in the top 30 for most dispensaries per capita, however state officials say the number is beginning to contract. [KFOR]

Murdock, Newton address W. S. Key Correctional Center situation: Sen. Murdock and Rep. Newton addressed over 100 area residents Tuesday on the subject of William S. Key Correctional Center. The prison is allegedly on a list for closure by the Department of Corrections. [Woodward News]

ImpactTulsa finds encouraging trends in local education, but also some persistent problems: After six years of collecting data on local education, ImpactTulsa has identified several encouraging trends even while noting some areas that still need improvement, according to the group’s annual report that was released Thursday evening. [Tulsa World]

DeVos assistant tours Tulsa schools with track records of high student achievement: One of the nation’s most influential education policy leaders came to Tulsa on Thursday for the conclusion of a weeklong tour of schools across Oklahoma. [Tulsa World]

Point-in-time count sends volunteers into city in search of homeless: The 2020 point-in-time count of Oklahoma City’s persons who are experiencing homelessness sent volunteers out Thursday to find those who are often overlooked. [Free Press OKC]

Adam Soltani: When everyone counts — everyone wins: In the decade since the 2010 census, I have learned the vital importance of civic engagement for myself, my Okie Muslim community, and for each and every individual regardless of ethnic or faith background. [Adam Soltani / The Frontier]

Quote of the Day

“We have to provide communities where (recently released justice-involved individuals are) getting the resources they need and they’re being inspired.”

-Robin Wertz, site director for Exodus House, a non-profit residential care facility in Oklahoma City [StateImpact Oklahoma]


Number of the Day


Percent of 3- and 4-year-olds in Oklahoma not enrolled in school, nursery school, pre-K, or kindergarten.

[Source: KIDS COUNT Data Center]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Long Island Divided: A three-year Newsday investigation uncovered widespread evidence of unequal treatment by real estate agents on Long Island. The three-year probe strongly indicates that house hunting in one of the nation’s most segregated suburbs poses substantial risks of discrimination, with black buyers chancing disadvantages almost half the time they enlist brokers. [Newsday]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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