In The Know: OK jails struggle to meet health, safety standards | Attention on youth justice system | COVID-19 exposed gaps in aiding vulnerable communities

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. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

(Oklahoma & COVID-19: Two Years Later) The COVID-19 pandemic exposed gaps in services to vulnerable communities, particularly immigrants: The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has hit immigrants disproportionally hard. While many U.S. citizens had access to a social safety net that could cushion the impact of unemployment and hospitalizations caused by the virus, immigrants often did not have these same resources available to them. Immigrants have had to bear the pandemic without much federal aid due to complicated rules around eligibility for public benefit programs, limited access to health care, economic limitations, and a variety of other factors. [Gabriela Ramirez-Perez / OK Policy

Report proposes reforms to Oklahoma’s Juvenile Justice System: Oklahoma has made significant progress in diverting children away from the justice system. But researchers say more work must be done to make the state’s juvenile justice system equitable for all. On Monday, the Oklahoma Policy Institute released an in-depth report detailing racial disparities in youth referrals and cost burdens the juvenile justice system places on families. [Oklahoma Watch

New Report from OK Policy: Better Tomorrows: A Landscape Analysis of Oklahoma’s Youth Justice System and Suggested Reforms reviews the historical context for Oklahoma’s youth justice system, examines contemporary processes and actors within the system, and recommends a series of reforms that can help achieve better outcomes for justice-involved children and their families.

OK Policy report shows how state’s youth justice system damages families: According to a new report from the Oklahoma Policy Institute, issues with Oklahoma’s youth justice system mirror problems seen in its adult justice system. Released on Monday, March 28, the report finds that children of color are overrepresented and the state’s overreliance on fines and fees to fund core operations damages families and communities.  [The Black Wall Street Times

Oklahoma Policy Institute releases report of reforms for youth justice system: The Oklahoma Policy Institute released its latest report, a landscape analysis of Oklahoma’s youth justice system and suggested reforms. House Bill 3205, authored by Rep. Talley and Sen. Garvin, would eliminate youth court fees, which is something the Oklahoma Policy Institute says they greatly support. [KTUL]

SB 1337 would provide managed care provisions for state Medicaid (Capitol Update): Senate Bill 1337 by Sen. Greg McCortney, R-Ada, and Rep. Marcus McEntire, R-Duncan, was introduced as a so-called “placeholder” bill that would move through the process meeting legislative deadlines while legislators work behind the scenes to determine if a managed care proposal can be agreed upon and passed this session. The bill took its first major step into public view when a “floor substitute” was filed last Monday afternoon. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

(Fellowship Deadline Extended) Join the team as a Fall 2022-2023 Fellow: We are currently hiring for two paid Fellow positions: a Policy Fellow and Communications & Operations Fellow. These one-year fellowship opportunities are for Fall 2022-Fall 2023. The deadline to apply for a Fellowship has been extended to Wednesday, April 13 at 5:00 PM (CST). [Learn more and apply]

State Government News

Many Oklahoma jails struggle to meet health and safety standards: More than four dozen Oklahoma jails were cited for health and safety violations in 2020, jail inspection reports obtained through an open records request show. Poor conditions and deaths in Oklahoma’s jails, particularly at the Oklahoma County Detention Center, have drawn elevated attention and scrutiny in recent years. [Oklahoma Watch

Gov. Kevin Stitt will sign bill to ban transgender athletes from female sports in Oklahoma: Gov. Kevin Stitt will sign into law a bill that bans high school and college athletes from competing on a team other than the one associated with their gender assigned at birth, essentially banning transgender women from competing on women’s teams. [The Oklahoman]  Opponents say Senate Bill 2 is unnecessarily divisive and will harm LGBTQ students, preventing them from playing with their peers. [KGOU

  • Gov. Kevin Stitt to sign bill restricting transgender athletes [Tulsa World
  • (Audio) Headlines: Transgender athlete ban, Norman turnpike protest & Sylvester Stallone in Tulsa [KOSU

What to Watch For as Oklahoma’s Legislature Reaches Halfway Point: Oklahoma’s Legislature reached its unofficial halfway point last Thursday, which was the last day for House bills to pass off the House floor and for Senate bills to pass off the Senate floor. While the closely watched Oklahoma Empowerment Act, a school voucher bill, failed during a dramatic late-night vote, plenty of impactful bills still are alive. [Oklahoma Watch

Senate advances bills to help fight state teacher shortage: Two education bills dealing with Oklahoma’s teacher shortage and carryover funds have been approved by the state Senate. Both measures, authored by Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan, have moved to the state House for its consideration. [Southwest Ledger]

Insurance requirement for oil/gas wells overturned by state Supreme Court: Norman’s business licensing requirement that oil and gas operators maintain an umbrella liability insurance policy providing at least $2 million in coverage was overturned March 22, 2022, by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. [Southwest Ledger]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma, other states challenge CDC transit mask rule: Oklahoma and 20 other states have sued to halt the federal government’s pandemic requirement that people wear masks on planes, trains and other public transport. [AP via Public Radio Tulsa] The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Tampa, Florida, contends that the mask mandate exceeds authority of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [The Journal Record

Mullin wants Trump’s first impeachment ‘expunged’: Second District Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Markwayne Mullin said Tuesday he wants the first of former President Donald Trump’s two impeachments “expunged.” [Tulsa World

  • Oklahoma candidate Kendra Horn slams Rep. Markwayne Mullin proposal to ‘expunge’ Trump impeachment [The Oklahoman

Biden signs antilynching act making lynchings a federal hate crime: President Biden signed into law Tuesday a bill with overwhelming bipartisan support that would make lynching a federal hate crime. After almost 200 attempts in Congress to try and get anti-lynching legislation passed, a bill has finally passed cementing it into law. [The Black Wall Street Times

Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, to speak at Langston University commencement ceremony: Langston University announced that Dr. Jewel H. Bronaugh, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture at the United States Department of Agriculture will be this year’s distinguished guest speaker at the Commencement Ceremony. [Stillwater News Press]

Tribal Nations News

Oklahoma wrong to claim Indian country jurisdiction, justices told: The state of Oklahoma can’t prosecute people accused of crimes involving Native Americans on the Cherokee Nation reservation, even if the accused is non-Indian, attorneys for a man convicted of child neglect told the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. Attorneys for the state of Oklahoma and Castro-Huerta will make oral arguments on April 27 to Supreme Court justices, who agreed to consider the specific question of concurrent jurisdiction while rejecting the state’s request to overturn the McGirt decision. [The Oklahoman

Voting and Election News

Years ago, she helped convict OKC bomber Timothy McVeigh. Now Vicki Behenna wants to be DA: A former federal prosecutor who helped get the death penalty for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh is running for Oklahoma County district attorney. Vicki Behenna, 63, of Edmond, is the first Democrat in the race. [The Oklahoman

Clark, Heikkila to face off in Norman mayoral battle: Norman voters will decide their next mayor April 5 in a runoff that pits incumbent Breea Clark, who weathered a recall effort in her first term, against Larry Heikkila, a longtime city employee, who finished second in the February primary election. [NonDoc

Former DA, Memorial PTA president vie for school board seat: Voters on Tulsa Public Schools’ southside are being asked to select a new representative on the board of education Tuesday. Susan Lamkin and Tim Harris finished first and second atop a four-candidate field for TPS’ District 7 in the Feb. 8 primary election. [Tulsa World

Health News

Around 200,000 Oklahomans could lose SoonerCare coverage when public health emergency ends – what you need to know: As the pandemic winds down, nearly 200,000 SoonerCare members need to be prepared to possibly lose their coverage. In March of 2020, some Medicaid eligibility requirements were waived to help people who lost their jobs due to COVID-19. [KFOR]

Recently from OK Policy: It will be vital that states thoughtfully approach the end of the public health emergency by taking steps to ensure that all eligible individuals stay enrolled in Medicaid. A successful public health strategy would ensure that ineligible individuals are connected with options to mitigate coverage gaps.

Tulsa nonprofit’s Spanish outreach paying off as Hispanics outperform COVID vaccination expectations in 2022: Manuela Barrios was curious about the COVID-19 vaccine but harbored concerns and put it off because one of her children has a heart condition. Barrios came across a social media ad about an Uma Center of Tulsa vaccination clinic March 3 with bilingual staff, so she took her 15- and 14-year-old children to it. [Tulsa World

New from OK Policy: Across the country, other states took the necessary steps to help immigrant communities by creating cash assistance programs, resource guides in various languages, and even small business assistance funds. 

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma Highway Patrol’s culture of unpunished pursuits proves fatal: Despite a policy requiring troopers to weigh if the benefits of apprehension are worth a chase’s risks, in a five-year span, 15 OHP pursuits have killed 18 people — and at least eight of those killed weren’t the eluding drivers. Five were uninvolved motorists, at least two were passengers in fleeing vehicles, and one was an OHP lieutenant on foot struck by another trooper’s cruiser at high speed. [The Black Wall Street Times

Oklahoma County jail has sixth inmate death of 2022: Another Oklahoma County jail inmate died Monday, the sixth so far this year. Dustin Levi Revas, 26, was declared dead at the jail at 2:12 a.m. Monday after a detention officer found him unresponsive on a bunk in his cell. [The Oklahoman] The Oklahoma State Medical Examiner’s Office will determine cause of death once their investigation is complete. [OKC Free Press]

Family continues the fight to free Julius Jones from an Oklahoma prison: Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s executive order against Julius Jones continues to impact the Jones family as they work to clear his name and free him from prison. Months ago, Gov. Stitt spared Jones from a death sentence four hours ahead of his scheduled execution on November 18, 2021. [The Black Wall Street Times

Oklahoma Local News

“Please don’t do this”: Mayor asks OTA to go elsewhere: The Norman City Council pressed officials from the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority with dozens of questions during a study session Tuesday that left many unknowns for councilors and their constituents. [Norman Transcript

  • Turnpike authority promises to work with residents over expansion plans targeting their homes [The Oklahoman
  • Norman turnpike proposal sparks opposition [The Journal Record

OKC Council approves Embark’s final rapid bus plan: Embark’s first bus rapid transit, or BRT, line is on schedule for construction to begin in June and service to start in October 2023. The Oklahoma City Council approved the final plans for construction of the station platforms along the route and authorized staff to advertise for bids following a presentation on the project Tuesday. [The Journal Record]

  • OKC City Council advances on BRT, weighs public housing project [OKC Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“The strain of these costs can be overwhelming for already financially stressed families. In many cases, the juvenile offenders themselves aren’t the ones who end up paying the fees, but instead the burden falls on their parents. As a result, the siblings of the juvenile offender suffer due to their sibling’s choices.”

– Rep. John Talley (R-Stillwater), in a statement about House Bill 3205, a bill he authored which would lower probation, program, and legal counsel fees for children in Oklahoma’s youth justice system. The bill unanimously cleared the House last week and is eligible for consideration in the Senate. [Oklahoma Watch]

Number of the Day


Black students in Oklahoma are more than four times as likely to have a school-related arrest and six times as likely to be expelled when compared to white students. Inequalities, often due to underfunding, unequal access to education and health care, as well as rural-urban divides, leave youth of color at a disadvantage.

[Source: Open Justice Oklahoma]

New Report from OK Policy: Better Tomorrows: A Landscape Analysis of Oklahoma’s Youth Justice System and Suggested Reforms reviews the historical context for Oklahoma’s youth justice system, examines contemporary processes and actors within the system, and recommends a series of reforms that can help achieve better outcomes for justice-involved children and their families.

Policy Note

Oklahoma Youth and Young Adult Suicide Report: Data from the Oklahoma Violent Death Reporting System (OKVDRS) show that in 2016, more Oklahoma youth ages 10-24 died by suicide than from cancer, heart disease, HIV, chronic lower respiratory disease, complicated pregnancies, congenital anomalies, influenza and pneumonia combined. [Oklahoma State Department of Health]

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Kristin Wells served as the Communications and Operations Fellow for OK Policy from October 2021 to July 2022. She previously worked as a digital content producer for News On 6. A native Kansas Citian, Kristin graduated with a B.A. in Media Studies and a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Tulsa in 2020. While there, she was accepted into the Global Scholars program, spurring her interests in policy, social movements, global identities, and the importance of education and advocacy. She hopes to use her skills to continue to learn and create a more equitable future for Oklahomans. An avid sports fan, Kristin lives in Tulsa with her rescue dog and is passionate about college basketball, documentaries, and coffee.

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