In The Know: Classrooms have most virus cases among high-risk settings | ‘Back to Work’ incentive program ends | Interim study on expungement

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. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

Interim study examines how to increase access to expungement (Capitol Update): Recently Rep. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond, hosted an interim study in the House Judiciary-Criminal Committee on potential criminal record expungement reform. The purpose of criminal justice is to separate offenders from society where necessary for protection, to deter future criminal misconduct, and to rehabilitate those who have offended. In a few cases, the behavior is so abhorrent that justice demands punishment for the sake of punishment. But in most nonviolent cases, the creation of a permanent public record to follow offenders for the rest of their lives contributes little to those goals, and instead adds barriers to their achievement. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

School classrooms have most COVID-19 cases among high-risk settings, says Tulsa Health Department: School classrooms are experiencing the most COVID-19 cases among high-risk settings in Tulsa County, according to the Tulsa Health Department. Kelly VanBuskirk, who is THD’s COVID-19 response incident commander, said Monday that children ages 5-17 are the second-largest demographic of COVID patients in Tulsa County since mid-August. VanBuskirk said 6.7% of new hospital admissions of Tulsa County residents for COVID from Sept. 19-25 were for patients ages 4 and younger. [Tulsa World]

  • Drive-through vaccines, booster shots offered in Tulsa through reopened Saint Francis program [Tulsa World]

‘Back to Work’ incentive, unemployment programs end as Oklahoma waits for court ruling: When Oklahoma’s “Back to Work” incentive program launched in May, the $1,200 payment for leaving unemployment was limited to the first 20,000 approved applications. When the program ended this month, however, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission had only given preliminary approval to less than half of that. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Days Before Tulsa State Fair, New COVID Cases Nearly Double That When 2020 Event Was Canceled: With the Tulsa State Fair beginning Thursday, new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations continue to decline in Tulsa County; however, both are substantially higher than they were when officials called off last year’s fair. There were more than 2,200 new cases reported in Tulsa County last week, which represented a fourth straight week with fewer new cases than the week before. When local officials canceled the Tulsa State Fair in August 2020, there had been just under 1,200 new cases. More than half of Tulsa County’s new cases now are among those 35 and younger. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Saint Francis Executives List Millions In Additional Costs From COVID-19 Pandemic: Leaders with Saint Francis health system in Tulsa said Monday the hospital has racked up millions of dollars in increased costs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Its chief financial officer said a significant portion of that is from not billing patients for care related to the illness. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Texas abortion restrictions have stoked a new battle over access in Oklahoma: As Texans seeking abortions inundate Oklahoma clinics, providers and reproductive rights advocates are concerned about new laws set to take effect here in November. [The Frontier]

Criminal Justice News

Reform advocates tell lawmakers more access to expungement could save state money, help people secure employment: In Oklahoma, expungement reform offers a second chance for people convicted of lower level crimes, but making the expungement process easier is the first step to reform, Ryan Haynie, a Criminal Justice Reform Fellow at Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs said. Expungement is the sealing of criminal records for people who have had charges dismissed, pardoned, deferred or even go long enough without other convictions. There are exceptions for violent and sexual offenses. [Enid News & Eagle] OK Policy: Justice reform issues showcase bipartisanship 

Former Attorney For Death Row Inmate Says Original Trial Was Flawed: A former attorney for a man sitting on Oklahoma’s death row says his original trial wasn’t fair. Amy McTeer represented John Marion Grant who is scheduled for execution Oct. 28. McTeer said there were no other Black men on Grant’s Osage County jury, and the court treated him with unnecessary roughness. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Todd Lamb to resign from jail trust, replacement not yet named: An item set to change the makeup of the Oklahoma County Jail trust was instead stricken from the agenda during Monday’s county commissioners’ meeting. While no official letter of resignation has been released, Commissioner Kevin Calvey added an item to the agenda last week to accept former Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb’s resignation as a trustee and appoint a replacement. However, Calvey has since removed the item from discussion. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma County Commissioners hear public, move very little business along [OKC Free Press]

Tahlequah urges Supreme Court to review case of deadly force: On Monday, U.S. Supreme Court justices were expected to decide whether to review the Tahlequah case, with an announcement likely in the days following. If justices decline to take the case, the 10th Circuit court’s decision will stand, and Dominic Rollice’s estate can pursue its lawsuit against Tahlequah and the officers. [The Oklahoman]

Julius Jones: A collision of uncertainty and finality: “There’s no going back once an execution is carried out, much in the same way you can’t recall a bullet after the trigger is pulled. Before you carry it out, you better be damned sure you got this one right. Which brings us to the case of Julius Jones.” [Opinion Column / Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Groups Agree State Landlord-Tenant Act Needs Updated But Largely Differ On Substance Of Changes: While they may not see eye-to-eye on many things, landlord and tenant groups agree Oklahoma’s rental housing laws need updating, and there’s some agreement on what needs to change. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Education News

DA: Allegation against John Woods ‘doesn’t rise to the level of a criminal case’: While stating that he starts every review of a case by “believing the victim,” Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn has declined to pursue charges after a woman filed a police report alleging that now-former University of Oklahoma lobbyist John Woods sexually assaulted her. [NonDoc]

General News

Oklahoma Domestic Violence Reports Reach Highest Level in 20 Years: Thousands of other abuses occurred across the state last year amid a worldwide pandemic that left victims even more vulnerable to violence at home. In Oklahoma, which consistently ranks among states with the highest rates of women killed by men, 2020 produced a record number of domestic violence reports. [Oklahoma Watch]

Justice for Greenwood hosts prayer rally, donates to churches damaged or destroyed during Tulsa Race Massacre: North Tulsa community members, pastors and activists gathered Monday night to pray in advance of Tuesday morning’s hearing on a motion to dismiss a 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre reparations lawsuit. During the prayer rally, hosted by the Justice for Greenwood Foundation, the foundation donated $33,000 to 11 churches that were damaged or destroyed during the massacre 100 years ago. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“(Oklahoma’s high eviction rate) is not because our state is poorer, because our rents are higher, because our tenants are more rent burdened, because we have worse renters in some way. It’s directly tied to our laws and policies.”

-Oklahoma Access to Justice Foundation Executive Director Katie Dilks [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day


Number of states that are streamlining criminal record expungement through some form of automation. This topic was part of a recent interim study about increasing access to expungement in Oklahoma. [Clean Slate Initiative

Policy Note

To Boost Hiring, New York Makes Case for a ‘Clean Slate’: For many Americans, criminal records stand as stubborn barriers to employment and housing. Several states are now advancing efforts to automatically seal and expunge those records. [Bloomberg]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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