In The Know: Hundreds of released prisoners get ‘a second chance,’ second-hand smoke studied, 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

(Capitol Update) Oklahoma taking step towards recovery from ‘war on drugs’: Oklahoma took a big step last week toward recovery from the so-called “war on drugs.” The Pardon and Parole Board recommended 527 commutations of sentences for persons serving prison time for simple drug possession or minor property crimes. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

(Audio) Largest single prison sentence commutation in U.S. history: Mental Health Association Oklahoma podcast features conversation with OK Policy Criminal Justice Policy Analyst Damion Shade about this week’s sentences being commuted for more than 450 people with drug possession and low-level theft convictions. [Mental Health Download]

In The News

‘Just stay positive, don’t give up:’ Hundreds leave prison Monday following largest commutation in nation’s history: More than 500 men and women in Oklahoma had their felony sentences for drug possession and theft commuted by a sweeping vote of the state Pardon and Parole Board. Earlier this year, state lawmakers made retroactive a decision by voters to reduce the penalties for small-scale drug possession and theft. The result: what experts say may be the biggest single-day release of prisoners in U.S. history. [The Frontier & The Marshall Project] ‘A second chance’: Hundreds of inmates released from Oklahoma prisons in largest commutation in U.S. history. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy: Oklahoma’s incarceration rate should prompt an evaluation of the state’s criminal justice system. 

Wright holds study on second-hand smoke exposure: House Speaker Pro Tempore Harold Wright (R-Weatherford) recently held an interim study before the House Health Services and Long-Term Care Committee to examine modernization to the Smoking in Public Places and Indoor Workplaces Act as a way to address second-hand smoke exposure and related illnesses in Oklahoma. [CNHI]

(Audio) Capitol Insider: Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s new CEO On Medicaid and more: In this episode of Capitol Insider, KGOU’s Dick Pryor and eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley interview Kevin Corbett, who recently left the private sector to run a state agency charged with ensuring all Oklahomans have health care. Corbett reflects on his transition and the possibility of Medicaid expansion. [KGOU] OK Policy supports SQ 802 and has provided information and resources to better understand the issue.

Whistleblower claims raise questions about multi-county grand jury process: In addition to a legal claim, the attorney for a former investigator for Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater has sent a series of letters alleging Prater misused the state’s multi-county grand jury process to get donor and payroll records of a criminal justice reform group. [Oklahoma Watch] Oklahoma’s attorney general on Monday came to the defense of Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater over accusations the DA illegally had “political enemies” investigated.  [The Oklahoman]

‘Exchange’ visit brings state representatives from central Oklahoma to see local schools’ best programming: Legislative visits to public schools aren’t out of the ordinary, but one south Tulsa lawmaker wanted her colleagues at the Capitol to get out of their own districts when they did so on Monday. The group spent the most time inside a fully equipped elementary school STEM lab where second-, third- and fourth-graders spend almost an hour each day learning pre-engineering skills including circuitry, robotics, coding and mechanics.  [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Supreme Court blocks 2015 abortion law: The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted an injunction on Monday barring enforcement of a law that bans a method of abortion in the second trimester. The injunction is expected to remain in place while the court hears an appeal of the “Unborn Child Protection-from-Dismemberment-Abortion Act,” which was approved by the state Legislature in 2015. The state law, which has never gone into effect because of the court challenges, bans dilation and evacuation abortions after 14 weeks unless a “fetal demise” procedure is performed first. [The Oklahoman]

OKC Police Chief says permitless carry law creates policing concerns: While most Oklahomans can now legally carry a firearm without a permit or training, Oklahoma City’s top police official is worried about the consequences the change in law could have. One of the major concerns for law enforcement officials was that they were not consulted before its implementation. Within the bill, individuals who openly carry no longer have to disclose they possess a firearm when they come into contact with law enforcement unless asked directly by a law enforcement officer. [The Oklahoman]

Traffic study findings for possible speed limit hikes expected after Jan. 1: Studies to determine whether some highway speed limits can be increased will not be complete until after the first of next year, the state’s top transportation official said Monday. House Bill 1071, which passed last legislative session and took effect Friday, allows speed limits to be raised to 75 mph on rural segments of the interstate highway system by the Transportation Commission that it determines to be reasonable and safe. [Tulsa World]

Privileged and confidential: New law promotes voluntary environmental audits: Under a new Oklahoma law, companies that violate federal and state environmental, health and safety laws can now keep the violations confidential and avoid consequences if the violation is reported in a voluntary compliance audit and corrected. [Journal Record 🔒] Environmentalists describe proposed coal ash rule changes as ‘dangerous’. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa school board approves average $2,084 raise for teachers: Tulsa Public Schools teachers will be receiving raises of $2,084 on average in the next school year. The Board of Education approved the raises at Monday night’s meeting. The district had been negotiating with the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association since July to reach an agreement on salaries for the 2019-20 school year. [Tulsa World]

Committee created to help Oklahoma County jail management transition: Despite pushback, Oklahoma County commissioners created a new committee meant to help transition jail management away from the sheriff by Jan. 1. [The Oklahoman] Two elected officials asked to be not included, then asked to be included. [Free Press OKC]

MAPS 4: A breakdown of the 1-cent sales tax designed to invest in city services and infrastructure: Oklahoma City voters will soon decide the fate of MAPS 4, the fourth edition of a 1-cent sales tax designed to invest in city services and infrastructure. The proposal includes 16 projects that would cost nearly $978 million and would be located across the entire city. [The Oklahoman]

Future of Norman public transportation tied to sales tax vote: Norman residents will have the opportunity to vote Tuesday, Nov. 12, on a one-eighth percent sales tax that would be directed to the city’s public transportation system. If approved, the proposal is expected to generate revenue to help fill a $2.2 million funding deficit without raising current sales tax levels. [NonDoc]

Longtime prosecutor tapped for judicial post: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday elevated a career public servant and Muskogee County prosecutor to a local post with the state judiciary that has been vacant since late February. First Assistant District Attorney Tim King was one of three finalists sent by the Judicial Nominating Committee to Stitt for consideration. [CNHI]

Northeast Oklahomans surrender more than 1,700 pounds of pharmaceuticals during DEA’s 18th Drug Take Back Day: Northeast Oklahomans surrendered more than 1,700 pounds of pharmaceuticals, vaping devices, and cartridges during the Drug Enforcement Administration’s 18th National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. [Tulsa World]

Cherokee Nation lays out two paths for sending delegate to Congress: Cherokee Nation announced its intention to send a delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives on Sept. 17, 2019. Since then, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. says he has met with a handful of lawmakers in Washington D.C., including Oklahoma Representatives Tom Cole and Markwayne Mullin and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. [KGOU

Greenwood museum hopes “Watchmen” delivers donors; GoFundMe campaign launched to support renovation project: Backers of a project to renovate the Greenwood Cultural Center and build an adjacent museum are hoping interest in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre sparked by the HBO series “Watchmen” will boost fundraising. Plans call for renovation of the Greenwood Cultural Center and construction of a museum to be called Greenwood Rising, plus a trail from Vernon AME Church, across Greenwood Avenue from the cultural center, to John Hope Franklin Park about three blocks away. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“We have decades of politics and policy that led to our incarceration rates. Our system has been very punitive, it’s been based on retribution. But ultimately these reforms were directly the will of the people, the voice of the people.”

-Kris Steele, Executive Director of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform [The Frontier & The Marshall Project]

Number of the Day

6

Number of states, including Oklahoma, that tax groceries at the full sales tax rate. Oklahoma’s Sales Tax Relief Credit, which was designed to reduce the impact on low and middle income families, has not increased since it was created in 1990.

[Source: Tax Foundation]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

This data tool helps homeless people get housing. If you’re white, your chances are even better: When Leah Post started using a tool meant to prioritize the most vulnerable people she worked with for a shot at housing, she noticed something was off. People walking through the doors of her human services organization were disproportionately people of color. But the assessment tool she was using, a mouthful called the Vulnerability Index — Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool, or VI-SPDAT for short, regularly prioritized white clients. [Seattle Times]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy from Oklahoma City University as a Clara Luper Scholar. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked as an Inbound and Digital Marketing Specialist for an OKC based firm. She is an alumnus of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a Board Member for Dream Action Oklahoma.

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