In The Know: How rape stays hidden in Oklahoma

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.

Today In The News

Shadow Land: How rape stays hidden in Oklahoma: Linda Terrell was raped 30 years ago and it forever defined her life. You don’t really need to know her name. She could be anyone. Male or Female. A 5-year-old child. A 54-year-old adult. She could live in a three-bedroom brick house or an apartment in Boise City or McAlester. Guymon or Idabel. Tulsa or Oklahoma City. Or in your home. Most sexual assault survivors live in the shadows of justice as Terrell did for nearly 30 years, waiting for her rapist to be caught [The Frontier].

Legislature starts Department of Health investigation: A House of Representatives committee began an investigation Monday, when it hosted two of the state’s top executive officials to testify about financial scandal within the Oklahoma State Department of Health. Several lawmakers and other officials have criticized managers within the department for its crisis, which was discovered on a statewide level less than two months ago and has already triggered hundreds of layoffs [Journal Record].

Nobody wants to go back for a second special session. Here’s why it’s still necessary: In light of the failure of the first special session, few lawmakers are excited about a sequel. So why even bother with a second special session? Why not just wait until February and pick things back up in regular session? There are three main factors that argue for tackling the budget in a second special session [OK Policy].

Legislature faces lawsuits, fatigue when lawmakers return: Less than a week before lawmakers head back into the Capitol for a third legislative session this year, several of them hold divergent opinions on how dire of a problem the state’s funding situation is. Several House of Representatives members spent the day listening to officials talk about financial mismanagement within an agency that is so severe it caused several providers to lose contracts and nearly 200 state employees to lose their jobs. Executives said during a legislative hearing that they need more oversight with agencies because some succeeded at fudging their budget reports to paint a misleadingly rosy picture [Journal Record]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy].

Story on School Seclusion Rooms Leads to Proposed Legislation: Two state lawmakers have vowed to pursue legislation to restrict schools’ use of seclusion rooms, which were the topic of a recent Oklahoma Watch investigation. Seclusion rooms are often small, closet-like rooms with bare walls used to control the behavior of students acting violently, most of whom have autism or severe behavioral disorders. Cottonwood, Ardmore, and Edmond school districts have faced lawsuits over the rooms; Mustang Public Schools faced public backlash recently after an upset parent posted his complaint online [Oklahoma Watch].

Does Preschool Pay Off? Tulsa Says Yes: In 2001, not long after Oklahoma had adopted one of the nation’s first universal pre-K programs, researchers from Georgetown University began tracking kids who came out of the program in Tulsa, documenting their academic progress over time. In a new report published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management today, researchers were able to show that Tulsa’s pre-K program has significant, positive effects on students’ outcomes and well-being through middle school [NPR].

Oklahoma health boss says $30 million will help fund layoffs: A $30 million cash infusion from the Legislature will help pay vendors and fund the layoffs of nearly 200 people at the Oklahoma State Department of Health, but more systemic changes are needed to permanently stabilize the agency after years of financial mismanagement, the agency’s new leader told lawmakers on Monday. Acting Oklahoma Health Commissioner Preston Doerflinger testified for more than two hours before a House investigative panel looking into the agency’s budget problems [AP].

Oklahoma health department alerts 47,000 clients about data breach for the 2nd time: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is notifying 47,000 clients their records may have been breached — and it’s the second breach notification about the same incident because DHS neglected to alert the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services the first time. An unauthorized user accessed a state assessment computer at Carl Albert State College in Poteau, Oklahoma, in April 2016. The server contained the names, addresses, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of both current and former DHS Temporary Assistance for Needy Families clients [Healthcare IT News].

Muskogee recovery program places participants in jobs gutting chickens: OK Foods, owned by the Mexican transnational corporation Bachoco, is using workers bussed in from a Muskogee drug recovery program at its Muldrow poultry plant. A worker told The Oklahoman he was required to turn his whole paycheck over to the recovery program to stay out of jail. Arkansas-based OK Foods’ parent company Bachoco is one of the largest integrated poultry producers in the world [NewsOK].

Collaboration leading Oklahoma’s opioid battle: State policymakers, agency officials and health care providers moved quickly in 2017 to collaborate on combating a deadly drug crisis. But the money needed to fight that epidemic hasn’t risen proportionally, said Dr. Jason Beaman. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said a major court case he brought against drugmakers could potentially provide a cash infusion for prevention and treatment. However, it will take several years before that money could start flowing [Journal Record]. 

Oklahoma’s governor crashes Dallas schools recruiting event in OKC: Dallas Independent School District recruiters were probably a little surprised when Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin showed up at their booth in Oklahoma City one morning last week. Now, there is a long tradition of teachers taking their retirement pay from Oklahoma and going to Texas to start over, and Fallin may be looking for a job in about a year when her current term expires. But no, she wasn’t there to fill out an application [Randy Krehbiel / Tulsa World].

Former Oklahoma City mayor chided for anti-gay comments: A former Oklahoma City mayor and member of the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents was rebuked Monday for comparing gay people to pedophiles and politicians who’ve recently resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Kirk Humphreys made the comments during a local TV public affairs show that aired over the weekend on KFOR-TV. An alumni group has called for his resignation, and the student body president encouraged the campus to voice its opinion on Humphreys’ “ignorant” words [AP]. Humphreys issued an apology [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“There is a money issue. When you have a dollar need and are given a quarter, that just doesn’t work. That’s where we are in this state.”

– Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, explaining that the severe lack of funding to District Attorney offices and law enforcement agencies hampers the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases (Source)

Number of the Day


Forcible and attempted rapes reported in Oklahoma in 2016, up more than 9.5 percent from 2015

Source: The Frontier

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Our cash bail system isn’t working. We can fix it: From coast to coast, officials in the criminal-justice system are finally concluding that the nation’s cash bail system isn’t working. California’s chief justice, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, endorsed a judicial commission last month that found cash bail “unnecessarily compromises victim and public safety” and “exacerbates socioeconomic disparities and racial bias.” On the other coast, a New York City commission I led came to a similar conclusion, determining that our jails are filled with people unable to post even modest bail amounts even though they pose little risk to public safety [Washington Post].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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