In The Know: Recommendations for commuted and paroled prison sentences way up; Department of Corrections faces psychologist staffing challenges

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.

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In The News

Recommendations for commuted prison sentences are up 1,300% and paroles up 41%. So what’s changed?: Early waves of criminal justice reform have generated a gargantuan 1,300% leap in favorable recommendations for commuted prison sentences, with paroles up a robust 41%, according to state government data. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended commutation for 140 inmates from March through August, compared to only 10 during the same span in 2018. [Tulsa World]

Department of Corrections faces psychologist staffing challenges: The number of psychologists employed by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections has dwindled during recent years. The agency currently has nine psychologists and 22 vacancies, a staffing level that the agency’s chief mental health officer described as critical. Those nine psychologists include three clinical coordinators, who have caseloads but also serve as regional supervisors. [The Oklahoman]

If Oklahoma expands Medicaid, it seems unlikely the state will operate the program: Whether Oklahoma expands Medicaid fully through the ballot box or partially through the legislature, it’s likely a private company will be hired to run it. Oklahoma’s Health Care Working Group spent hours this week learning the ins and outs of managed care organizations, which take a set per member, per month payment for delivering Medicaid services. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma Veterans Affairs director to resign: The executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, who was retained despite a highly critical state audit of the agency released last year, plans to resign. Doug Elliott, who served as the agency’s director since February 2018, will step down Sept. 30. [The Oklahoman]

State clarifies position on calling Johnson & Johnson a family company: The state of Oklahoma’s reference to Johnson & Johnson as not living up to its image as “a family company” was in no way intended to cause confusion with the separate and independent company S.C. Johnson. [CNHI]

Lawmakers looking for ways to get more Oklahoma high schoolers in AP courses: Oklahoma high schoolers’ participation in Advanced Placement courses is up slightly, but officials want to boost it even more. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Swine garbage feeding prohibited in Okla. after Nov. 1: Beginning Nov. 1, the practice of garbage or waste feeding will be prohibited in Oklahoma after the passage of House Bill 2155. [Duncan Banner]

Gross receipts to the treasury reflect modest growth: Gross receipts to the treasury for August reflect modest growth, according to a revenue report released Thursday by State Treasurer Randy McDaniel. [Tulsa World]

The Oklahoman Editorial: Suicide: Casting a light on a tough subject: According to America’s Health Rankings from United Health Foundation, Oklahoma saw 21.4 suicides per 100,000 people in 2018. The national rate was 13.9 per 100,000, and Oklahoma’s figure also was up slightly from 20.7 per 100,000 the year before. That’s a problem. [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman]

Editorial: Oklahoma needs more child care support: Our congressional delegation needs to ensure more access to and better quality of child care to support Oklahoma’s children, families and businesses. [Paula Koos / The Oklahoman]

Tulsa World Editorial: Rapes in Oklahoma rising, and law enforcement needs to catch up: A troublingOklahoma Watch report finds that police are clearing rape cases at possibly record low rates. At the same time, rape reports have reached a 20-year high. That’s not acceptable. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Tickets and warnings from the OHP: Where you are mostly likely to get them in Oklahoma: Tickets and warnings from the OHP: Where you are mostly likely to get them in Oklahoma. [Tulsa World]

Dueling PR campaigns show opposing sides of tribal gaming debate: As Gov. Kevin Stitt and Oklahoma’s Native American tribes clash on renegotiating the tribal gaming compacts, dueling public relations campaigns highlight both sides of the debate. [The Oklahoman] U.S. Rep. Cole says gaming compact dispute could wind up in court. [The Oklahoman]

Delaware County residents ask judge to stop water board from issuing short-term permits to poultry farm: A judge heard testimony Friday morning from the executive director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and a Delaware County resident who is seeking a preliminary injunction against OWRB issuing more short-term groundwater permits to a nearby poultry feeding operation. [The Frontier]

TPS officials say falling into $20 million deficit was inevitable without state intervention after years of education cuts: The looming $20 million budget cut for Tulsa Public Schools was inevitable without further state intervention, according to district officials. Rebecca Fine, education policy analyst with the Oklahoma Policy Institute, said she’s not surprised by the TPS shortfall given the decade of devastating budget cuts and lack of operational funding in the state’s recent education boosts. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa charter schools face growing pains as they expand to more grades: Facility expansion has been the biggest challenge for three Tulsa Public Schools-sponsored charter schools that are in the process of taking on additional grades. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa Mayor scraps police oversight plan; alternative in works: Mayor G.T. Bynum is scrapping his police oversight proposal and hopes to present an alternative to the City Council later this month, councilors were informed by email Friday evening. [Tulsa World]

Mistrust still an issue between Oklahoma City police and undocumented community: In July, a man and his children were attacked by three Oklahoma City teenagers with BB guns. But the family didn’t report the incident to police, reported local TV station KFOR. They were undocumented, so they feared deportation. [The Oklahoman]

Judge orders zombie SeeWorth, Inc. to stop draining accounts — follow law: Wednesday, District Judge Cindy Truong ordered the parent corporation of the defunct SeeWorth Academy Charter School to stop spending money from accounts of the closed school and comply with Oklahoma school laws “effective immediately.” [Free Press OKC] OKCPS board member Mark Mann defended the district’s position and said obtaining property, funds and financial records from Seeworth has been “a constant battle.” [NonDoc]

Muscogee (Creek) chief candidates make their cases during forum: Two weeks before the Muscogee (Creek) Nation primary elections, eight of the 10 people vying to replace James Floyd as the tribe’s principal chief took part in a candidate forum to present their cases to voters. [Tulsa World] One candidate for Muscogee is still awaiting the resolution of tribal court gambling-related charges. [Tulsa World]

Teehee hopes for congressional collaboration on seating her as Cherokee Nation delegate: Kim Teehee, who made history last month after being confirmed as the Cherokee Nation’s first delegate to Congress, doesn’t plan to show up in Washington this week and demand a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. [The Oklahoman]

Lankford says he’s pushed Homeland Security to enact election security measures despite Senate majority leader blocking congressional action: U.S. Sen. James Lankford’s name is coming up in connection with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a potentially uncomfortable way for such stories about election security that refer to McConnell as “Moscow Mitch.” [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“I do think the result of it is inmates really have a sense of hope, and you think about hope and how important that is to the rehabilitation of people and the mental health of people. It’s a powerful force for good.”

– Pardon and Parole Board Executive Director Steven Bickley, on the recent surge in the approval of commutation and parole applications [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Total number of individuls on Death Row in Oklahoma as of August 1, 2019

[Source: Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Government programs usually cost money. These ones actually make money: That’s a big deal. It suggests that if taxpayers decide, in the short run, to invest heavily in children’s health and education, they’ll actively save money decades in the future, money that could be used for other priorities or even for tax cuts. It’s in voters’ self-interest to try to make kids better off. [Vox]

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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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