In The Know: North Carolina criminal justice reforms reduce prison populations as Oklahoma’s keep rising

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Oklahoma Watch examined North Carolina’s effective criminal justice reforms that have reduced prison populations by 4,000 inmates over two years, in contrast with Oklahoma where incarceration keeps rising. David Blatt’s Journal Record column discusses how a hit new TV series is drawing attention to over-incarceration. The OK Policy Blog examines the role of intergenerational transfers in perpetuating Oklahoma’s racial wealth gap.

Beginning in January, most Oklahoma City bus stops will move to 30-minute intervals, down from the current frequency of an hour or longer between buses. An Oklahoma lawmaker and Moore parents are pushing for a state question to allow a $500 million bond issue for school storm shelters statewide. Fewer students in elementary and middle schools across Oklahoma scored proficient or advanced in previous years, which education officials said was due to increasingly difficult tests.

New numbers from the Tax Foundation show that Oklahoma has the fifth highest combined state and local sales tax rates in the nation. Oklahoma health experts are stressing the importance of measles vaccinations after an outbreak in Texas. 

The Number of the Day is percentage of Oklahoma adults who are affiliated with the Evangelical Protestant tradition of Christianity. In today’s Policy Note, Salon reports on how the National Restaurant Association has become a powerful lobbying force against living wages and employee sick days.

In The News

Criminal Justice Reforms: A tale of two states

Several years ago, legislators in both Oklahoma and North Carolina began taking steps to address rising incarceration rates. The results: Oklahoma’s prison population continued to rise, climbing by about 800 inmates to nearly 27,000. The corrections system remains overcrowded and has been forced to contract with private prisons to house more inmates. State officials say more funds are needed to relieve overcrowding. In North Carolina, the prison population declined by about 4,000 inmates over two years, which allowed the state to close five prisons this year.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

Prosperity Policy: Paying for Piper

One of this summer’s hit TV sensations has been the original Netflix series Orange is the New Black, a gripping, frequently funny and profane look at life in a federal minimum-security women’s penitentiary. The main character, Piper Chapman, is a privileged white woman serving a 15-month sentence for her involvement in transporting drugs internationally. The show has drawn unusual attention to the subject of our nation’s correctional system, and to the situation of female inmates in particular.

Read more from the Journal Record.

Closing the gap, part 5: Intergenerational wealth

The opportunity gap has remarkable staying power. From generation to generation, wealth disparities by race are persistent. This post explores the intergenerational forces underlying this inertia and the role of past events in determining future outcomes. We know that infants born into families that can’t meet their basic needs are more likely to end up on a lower rung of the economic ladder than infants born into families with the means to satisfy their every need. That’s because our ability to build and accumulate wealth contracts or expands in proportion to our opportunities.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

More frequent bus stops and less wait times planned for OKC Metro buses

More frequent stops will be implemented in the Metro Transit bus system starting in January pending formal approval. Based on recommendations from Nelson- Nygaard Consulting Associates, a transportation planning firm, the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority (COTPA) intends to eliminate neighborhood bus stops and keep the routes on major streets. Also, most bus routes will move to more favorable 30-minute intervals as opposed to the current frequency of an hour or longer, said Rick Cain, COTPA’s executive director.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette.

Moore parents support new push to build storm shelters in schools

Kids are back in school across our state now, and most of them return to buildings with no storm shelters. That has a lot of families concerned after the devastating tornadoes in Moore. There’s a new push to get shelters in schools, and the plan involves a $500 million bond issue. That funding would go to schools across our state to build storm shelters. That’s why an Oklahoma lawmaker is filing a petition to move the plan forward with strong support from parents in Moore.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Fewer elementary and middle school students score proficient on more difficult tests

Fewer students in elementary and middle schools across Oklahoma scored proficient or advanced on more rigorous tests than in previous years, according to preliminary scores delivered Wednesday by state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi. Barresi, flanked by education and business leaders, told a gathering at the state Capitol that new tests for fifth- and eighth-graders in science and writing, and a new biology test for high school students seeking diplomas, are designed to prepare students for 21st century challenges.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma ranks number five for highest sales taxes

It’s a ranking where, if you’re a consumer, you don’t want to be anywhere near the top of the list. But there Oklahoma is, at number five, for the highest combined average local and state sales tax rates. That’s according to a new study by the non-partisan Tax Foundation. In fact, including Oklahoma, four of the top five are southern States.

Read more from KRMG.

Oklahoma health officials stress importance of measles vaccines

Oklahoma health experts are on alert for measles after an outbreak in Texas. At least 21 cases have been traced back to the Eagle Mountain International Church located just North of Fort Worth. Officials with the Oklahoma State Health Department explained that the close proximity caused some worry for them, especially since some Oklahomans choose not to use vaccines. They said that in the late 1990s, some parents began to worry that the MMR vaccine was linked to autism cases. The health department refuted that claim and explained there is “absolutely no data that shows any relationship between the two.”

Read more from NewsOn6.

Quote of the Day

On one route, the number of riders jumped almost immediately by about 20 percent. On the other one, it was close to 30 percent.

-Rick Cain, executive director of the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority, on what happened when Oklahoma City funded pilot projects to reduce the wait time between buses on two routes (Source:

Number of the Day

53 percent

The percentage of Oklahoma adults who are affiliated with the Evangelical Protestant tradition of Christianity, compared to just 26 percent nationally

Source: The Pew Research Center

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How the National Restaurant Association ensures poverty wages 

While thousands of fast-food workers were preparing to walk off their jobs earlier this summer to seek raises to $15 an hour, the industry’s corporate lobbyist, the National Restaurant Association, was celebrating a string of political victories blocking state minimum wage increases and preempting local sick day laws. In June, the NRA boasted that its lobbyists had stopped minimum wage increases in 27 out of 29 states in 2013. In Connecticut, which increased its state minimum wage, a raise in the base pay for tipped workers such as waitresses and bartenders vanished in the final bill. The NRA’s lobbying didn’t stop there. It also told members that it blocked a dozen states this year from passing laws that would require earned paid sick leave, which is what New York City and Portland, Oregon adopted. Meanwhile, it boasted that six states, including Florida, passed NRA-backed laws that preemptively ban localities from granting earned and paid employee sick time.

Read more from Salon.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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