In The Know: Criminal justice reform debate escalates, nonprofit leaders urge participation in 2020 U.S. census, Muskogee to vote on $110 million school bond issue

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

Criminal justice reform debate escalates: Ryan Gentzler, director of Ok­­lahoma Policy Institute’s Open Justice Oklahoma program, said SQ 780 has served as a good first step in lowering incarceration rates. It’s helped thousands of people avoid felony convictions for simple possession of controlled substances and low-level property offenses such as larceny, he said. [CNHI] In the last few years, Oklahoma voters have changed several low-level felonies to misdemeanors, and the Legislature raised the felony theft threshold— the dollar value that defines a theft as a felony — from $500 to $1,000. This means fewer Oklahomans are going to prison for low-level theft.

Making it count: Nonprofit leaders urge participation in 2020 U.S. census: The 2020 census is only six months away, and an inaccurate count could cost the state of Oklahoma millions of dollars, leaders of nonprofit groups said Friday. [Journal Record ????] Data from the Census is essential for deciding the distribution of billions of dollars in federal grants, for helping private businesses make decisions about where to locate and expand, for helping non-profits and public agencies target programs where they’re needed most, and for making sure Americans have fair voting representation in state and national elections.

Muskogee to vote on historic $110 million school bond issue Tuesday: Muskogee residents on Tuesday will vote on a $110 million bond proposal that would beef up the city’s aging school buildings and introduce new athletic facilities. [Tulsa World]

Federal grant will help state to address rape kit backlog: A nearly $2.4 million federal grant will allow Oklahoma to test hundreds of rape kits that have been sitting in evidence rooms across the state and to improve response to sexual assault crimes. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma prison locked down over concerns of renewed unrest: The Jim E. Hamilton Correctional Center in Le Flore County was locked down to restrict inmate movement on Saturday “out of an abundance of caution” after prison officials say they received unspecified intelligence information. [AP News

Oklahoma County DA opinion: County benefits policy must change to accommodate future jail trust employees: Officials are exploring ways to allow Oklahoma County jail employees to keep their health and retirement benefits after the sheriff turns over jail management to the Oklahoma County Jail Trust. [The Oklahoman]

Former Department of Public Safety leaders to sue for wrongful termination: Former Public Safety Commissioner Rusty Rhoades, former Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel Megan Simpson and former Chief of the Patrol Michael S. Harrell on Friday gave notice to the state they intended to sue for wrongful termination. [Tulsa World]

Putnam City schools launches one of the largest eSports programs in the state: New eSports teams at all three Putnam City high schools have brought after-school sports into the digital age. [The Oklahoman]

Intergenerational pre-K program launches at Grace Living Center: In August, two pre-kindergarten classes moved their classrooms to Grace to begin a new intergenerational pre-K program. [Norman Transcript]

Reports: Phosphorus trends down in IR; still exceeds standard: Clean-water advocates lamented new reports that show phosphorus levels in the Illinois River still exceed the state standard set for Oklahoma’s scenic rivers more than 90 percent of the time. [Muskogee Phoenix]

Strikeout: Why Oklahoma lost aircraft plant to Indiana: A Swedish aerospace company may have passed on building its new jet in Oklahoma because of concerns about the local workforce. The company apparently had issues with Oklahoma’s ability to provide a workforce for the $37 million facility, which will manufacture the T-7 trainer jet it’s developing with Boeing Corp. [The Oklahoman]

Mullin: Rural broadband will improve rural education: Education is the most valuable tool that we can give to the next generation and providing resources for our educators and our students should be a top priority in our communities. [Rep. Markwayne Mullin / CNHI]

Largest tribal outpatient health facility in U.S. opening first phase to patients: The Cherokee Nation’s new four-story, 469,000 square foot outpatient health center will open its optometry, audiology, physical rehabilitation, behavioral health, radiology, lab and pharmacy services October 7th. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Subsurface scanning for Tulsa Race Massacre burial sites to begin Monday: The search for unknown burial sites from Tulsa’s 1921 Race Massacre enters a new phase on Monday at a not-so-unknown location. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Kits are going to be tested and we’ve taken steps to ensure that this backlog, this really regrettable backlog that was allowed to occur, won’t happen again.”

– Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter on a $2.4 million federal grant to support initiatives to process untested rape kits and hiring a victim advocate. A recent audit found more than 7,200 untested rape kits statewide [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Share of Oklahomans over age 65 with jobs in 2018 – one percentage point higher than the national average.

[Source: Pew Charitable Trust]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

#LGBTQHistoryMonth: Study dispels stereotypes of rural LGBTQ people of color: Rural America is home to millions of LGBTQ people of color, and a report from the Movement Advancement Project shines a spotlight on their experiences. [NBC]

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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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