In The Know: Costs of world’s highest incarceration; more women in #okleg; hard work beats campaign contributions…

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

(Capitol Update) The cost of maintaining the world’s highest incarceration: When it comes to mass incarceration, Oklahoma is No. 1 (in the world!) But what are the numbers behind this, by now, well known fact? And what effect does it have on Oklahoma’s state budget? Despite the efforts of Governor Fallin, many legislators, and participation by numerous stakeholders, the best the state has been able to do is slow the rate of increase in incarceration.  [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

More women in running for legislature. What are their chances in November? Before the first vote was even cast in Oklahoma’s elections this year, women had already made history. What is likely a record number of female candidates, 140, filed paperwork in April to run for one of the state’s 125 legislative seats to be decided in November. In a state where men outnumber women in the Legislature six to one, ranking Oklahoma 49th in percentage of legislators who are female (14%), many women’s advocates saw this as an opportunity to narrow the gender gap. [Oklahoma Watch]

Hard work beats campaign contributions in some runoff races: Oklahoma’s Republican runoff races were a good reminder: Candidates with large war chests don’t always win the race. Several candidates, including incumbents, outraised their competitors. Some of those people saw contributions that were tenfold their opponents’ and still didn’t nab the nomination. [Journal Record ????]

Debate rages over how to tax oil production: Oklahoma’s Democratic candidate for governor is calling for an end to oil production tax incentives, but lawmakers and observers said getting that policy through after one of the state’s largest tax increases in history would be a difficult feat. Last week, Drew Edmondson held a press conference with former University of Oklahoma President David Boren to discuss the state’s education needs. [Journal Record]

Rogers County approves deal with DA’s office to run community service program for low-level offenders: The Rogers County Board of County Commissioners on Monday unanimously approved an agreement with the Rogers County District Attorney’s Office allowing the DA’s office to operate a community service program for low-level offenders, though it has already been running the program and collecting fees from participants for years. [The Frontier]

Attorney: Police tasing of man who later died appears excessive, violates policy: The mother and stepfather of a man who died three days after being tased by Tulsa police officers in a downtown bank last month want to know why the police didn’t let them know their son was languishing in a hospital until the final day. Roma Snowball-Presley and Tony Presley, who live in Haskell, said they didn’t hear from police until more than two days after Joshua Harvey’s encounter with police on Aug. 24. Tulsa attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons is representing Harvey’s family and said the released footage shows an unarmed Harvey tased simultaneously by two officers, which Solomon-Simmons said violates police policy. [Tulsa World]

Reforming marijuana possession ordinances would save hundreds of arrests: Oklahoma City police say marijuana possession is the “top-line” offense in hundreds of arrests each year. Chief Bill Citty has proposed changing city ordinances on possession of marijuana to allow for “field release” of suspects. They would be handed a $400 citation that could be paid at the Municipal Court pay window, just like a traffic ticket. [NewsOK]

State’s medical marijuana law holds no weight in Cherokee Nation: Oklahoma voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana in June, but the law holds no weight in the Cherokee Nation, according to the tribe’s attorney general’s office. SQ 788 doesn’t apply to CN jurisdiction because the tribe abides by tribal and federal laws, Deputy Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo said. This means the possession of marijuana – medical or recreational – is illegal on all tribally owned properties, including CN buildings, casinos and facilities. [Cherokee Phoenix]

Oklahomans who want to invest in ‘green rush’ anxiously await regulations: For Oklahomans looking to get in on the ground floor of the state’s upcoming medical marijuana industry, plans are being drawn, groundwork laid and small fortunes invested. But whether their businesses will be up to state standards is still unknown. According to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, 1,298 business licenses have been applied for as of Sept. 5. Broken down by type, the numbers are 452 for dispensary, 662 for cultivation and 184 for processing. [Tulsa World]

Editorial: Health Department should honor open records requests: The Oklahoma State Department of Health has found itself the subject of numerous negative headlines in the past year, so perhaps one more will not trouble state leaders. But legislators, members of the public and gubernatorial candidates should be concerned by the department’s apparent lack of urgency in responding to open records requests, even as citizens try to understand what occurred in that dreary tower on N.E. 10th Street lo’ these many months. [William W. Savage III / NonDoc]

Capitol restoration: Original copper roof needs to be replaced: Construction workers restoring the Oklahoma Capitol will have to replace the building’s large copper roof, which by far is the biggest unexpected expense so far in the years-long project. Replacing the 45,000 square feet of copper will cost the state $9.3 million, but Project Manager Trait Thompson said he won’t have to ask the Legislature for more money. [NewsOK]

One year later, ‘Dreamers’ still pushing for protection: Last September, Cynthia Garcia was handed a ticket to a roller-coaster ride that she didn’t want and she didn’t purchase. Ever since, she and other recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program have been stuck on that wild ride of uncertainty, caught in a political tug of war with their lives and their futures hanging in the balance. [NewsOK ????]

Katz Drug Store sit-in participant launches project for change: Ayanna Najuma was only 7 years old when she sat down at the all-white lunch counter at Katz Drug Store on Aug. 19, 1958. There she became a part of history in one of the first major sit-ins in the U.S. Najuma is now taking the knowledge she gained through a lifetime of championing civil rights and creating a conversational platform on social justice at Full Circle Books, beginning Sept. 11. [NewsOK]

Waterkeepers fight to keep Clean Water Act protections: Waterkeeper Alliance, Grand Riverkeeper, and Tar Creekkeeper are requesting to intervene in two Oklahoma federal district court lawsuits—one filed by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter and one filed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups—they claim seek to strip federal Clean Water Act protections from whole categories of waterways throughout the United States. [Miami News-Record]

ODOT unveils first electric car charging station at state capitol complex: For the first time, Oklahoma is welcoming electric cars to the State Capitol complex with a new public charging station. Governor Mary Fallin unveiled it alongside ODOT and local business leaders Monday morning, helping the state move forward to go green. [News9]

Cole named to two House-Senate Conference committees focusing on government funding: Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole has been appointed to two House-Senate conference committees including one dealing with the environment and government funding. Cole, a Republican who is seeking re-election, has developed a strong reputation in the House for his knowledge and expertise in appropriations matters. [OK Energy Today]

Quote of the Day

“We must continue the path that we started. Last year was a good first step for Okla Ed, but the rest of the plan must be completed. That will require another 500 million over two years for #oklaed and I am committed to finishing the plan we started.”

-Oklahoma House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols [Twitter]

Number of the Day


Share of residents in the Tulsa metropolitan area with a preexisting condition in 2015

[Kaiser Family Foundation]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How Medicaid work requirements will harm rural residents – and communities: Meeting Medicaid work requirements will be especially difficult in rural economies, with their higher unemployment and lower labor force participation. In addition, most state work requirement proposals would take coverage away from people if they fail to document 80 hours of work or work activities each month. Yet many jobs in rural areas (like farming, manufacturing, and retail) feature variable hours and above-average levels of involuntary part-time work and irregular scheduling. This means that many working people in rural areas would risk losing their health coverage, simply because they couldn’t obtain enough hours of work each and every month. Rural residents are also older, on average, than non-rural residents, and older Americans face particular challenges maintaining steady employment, such as work-limiting health conditions. [Center for Budget and Policy Priorities]

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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.

2 thoughts on “In The Know: Costs of world’s highest incarceration; more women in #okleg; hard work beats campaign contributions…

  1. As hurricanes have replaced wildfires in our news if not reality and we read of OK needs such as $500 million over two years for education, keep in mind how the climate change energizing the first will impact the second, making the need to save funds by ending overincarceration even more vital.

    Food and Agriculture

    State Economy$306-billion

    Infrastructure (“‘Melting road’ damages cars in Australia”)

    Energy (“US oil and gas methane emissions 60 percent higher than estimated”)

    So, if we decide as a state/nation/society to deal effectively with the climate change future detailed above (a very BIG “if”), OK is looking at impacts on farming and ranching, on roads and bridges, on economic development, and on revenue from energy and agriculture (I didn’t post on OK’s water problems and disputes already taking a toll or on the significant visible and invisible impacts/costs on physical and/or mental health). Add in using state and local revenue to pay for damages from direct climate change-related events such as more and more powerful tornadoes and rain totals and as wildfires and droughts. Figure $500 million more for education (maybe, really, seriously???), not to mention all the other dangerously underfunded important state and local services.

    One of the biggest pots of dollars to divert to this new world is in the state prison system, with reforms that have seen both decreased prison populations and crime rates (if not necessarily always costs unfortunately so the changes have to be far, far more than currently proposed). Had OK kept the sentencing reforms it passed in the mid-1990s at the same time NC passed the same package, it would likely have seen similar declines in prison populations and crime rates as NC did (greater declines than the national average while OK saw far less decline in the latter while becoming #1 in the former). Instead, the state fell victim to the same cast of characters (DAs, sheriffs, self-appointed victims’ reps) who oppose and obfuscate the kinds of reforms discussed above and to the policymakers who fear and listen to them.

    Climate change will likely force OK off the Stupid Train on overincarceration at some point. Frankly, it already is, if still mostly invisibly at this point. The question isn’t so much when as it is whether it will be still kicking and screaming or with some semblance of intelligence, common sense, and dignity. That’s where the verdict is still out and why continued columns like the one above are so necessary to keep pressing the point home.

  2. While the cost for incarcerations increases in Oklahoma, legislators have helped many qualifying Oklahomans recover from their criminal history. The lawyers at Bury your Past in Tulsa and Oklahoma City can help erase certain criminal arrests and convictions. Find our more at

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