In The Know: Big Challenges, Little Support for Children of Incarcerated Parents

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

Big Challenges, Little Support for Children of Incarcerated Parents: It’s a rare occasion when Daniel Thomas is able to speak with, much less see, his 14-year-old son Carson. Arranging a visit at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington, where Thomas is serving a 20-year prison sentence, is difficult because of visitation policies, scheduling issues and the three-hour round trip to and from the prison. Even talking over the phone can be prohibitive, with each 15-minute call costing inmates $3 or more [Oklahoma Watch].

OJA sees the fallout from broken families: Steve Buck, executive director of the state’s Office of Juvenile Affairs, offers a remarkable statistic regarding the importance of intact families as they relate to the young people in his charge. Last year, OJA handled roughly 13,000 new referrals. Of that total, Buck says, 10.5 percent were from families that had the biological mother and father in the home. Put another way, nearly nine out of 10 young people referred to the agency last year came from broken homes [The Oklahoman Editorial Board].

Sonya’s story as a child of incarcerated parents: Sonya (her name has been changed due to the sensitive nature of her story) grew up as a child of incarcerated parents and went on to be Valedictorian of her high school class, student council president, and drum major of the band. She is currently taking time off from college and works full-time at a bank. She spoke to OK Policy intern Chelsea Fiedler about her experience growing up [OK Policy].

Oklahoma sees immigration increasing from Central America: Talk quickly turns to tamales when Edgar Argueta considers the differences between Hispanic groups who call Oklahoma home. The 64-year-old property owner prefers tamales wrapped in plantain leaves, like the kind he ate in his native Guatemala nearly 40 years ago. “If I cook my food for the Mexicans, they don’t like it,” Argueta said, laughing before a weekly citizenship class he teaches at the Hispanic American Mission in Oklahoma City [NewsOK].

OK House: McCall Announces Committee Chair, Vice Chair Appointments: House Speaker-designate Charles A. McCall today announced the chairs and vice chairs for the standing House committees and appropriation subcommittees of the 56th Oklahoma Legislature. The House has reduced the number of committees by four for the 56th Legislature, which begins on February 6, 2017. In addition, McCall announced that state Representatives Katie Henke (R-Tulsa) and Glen Mulready (R-Tulsa) have been appointed to serve as floor leaders, assisting Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols (R-Oklahoma City) with running the day-to-day activities on the floor [The Okie].

DHS to speed up adoptions with agency attorneys: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is hoping to speed up the adoption process for children in foster care. The department announced Monday, Dec. 12 a new initiative with DHS Legal Services. The ‘Adoption Unit’ will have one purpose: to assist prospective adoptive parents as they manage and finalize the adoption process for children in state custody. The new unit allows the attorney to no only ensure each step of the adoption process is completed in a timely manner, but also be available to act as an intermediary between the adoptive parents, DHS workers and the courts [KOKH].

Oklahoma Lawmakers Consider Selling Power Plants To Fill Budget Hole: Oil prices are on the rebound, which should eventually generate revenue and help Oklahoma’s state budget situation. Still, another budget hole — that could be as large as $600 million — will likely have to be filled during the 2017 legislative session. One emerging idea that could put an extra billion dollars in state coffers: Selling the Grand River Dam Authority. eCapitol reports newly appointed House Appropriations and Budget Chair Leslie Osborn and Senate Majority Floor Leader Greg Treat intend to introduce a bill to clear a path for the sale of GRDA’s assets, like its hydroelectric dams [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Two area Workforce Oklahoma offices to close this month: The steady decade-long drop in federal funding for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission is causing the agency to close Workforce Oklahoma locations, including offices in Sand Springs and Claremore. Executive Director Richard McPherson said his agency, which handles unemployment benefits and job training for the state, hasn’t been high on lawmakers’ priority list compared to other essential services, forcing it to do more with less [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma is one of four states to receive D grade for financial literacy: Oklahoma is one of just four states receiving a D on the 2016 National Report Card on Adult Financial Literacy, released today by Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy. The other states are Arkansas, Alabama and Louisiana. John Pelletier, director of Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy, says that even those states earning high grades—none received an A or A+ — are merely the best among a group of low-performing states [Norman Transcript].

Are Schools Responsible for Chronically Absent Students? It’s hard to educate students who aren’t at school, and soon all schools in Oklahoma could be accountable for students who miss a significant number of school days. Chronic absenteeism, or the number of students missing 10 percent or more of the school year, is a relatively new way to measure attendance. Few state governments track it, and data released this summer marked the first nationwide look at chronic absenteeism by the U.S. Department of Education, which called the problem a “hidden educational crisis.” [Oklahoma Watch]

Flu Forces Closure Of Oklahoma School District: Peckham School in Newkirk, Oklahoma, has canceled classes Tuesday due to an outbreak of the flu. Superintendent Gary Young said 20 percent of the students at the pre-kindergaten through 8th grade school have been out sick for the last two weeks. Staff will spend Tuesday disinfecting the entire school. It has not yet been determined whether classes will resume Wednesday [News9].

Mentally ill man shot by OKC police officer accepts $50,000 settlement to end federal lawsuit: A mentally ill man shot by an Oklahoma City police officer in 2014 has accepted a $50,000 settlement to end his excessive force lawsuit against the city. The shooting left Marquis Pegues, now 31, of Oklahoma City, paraplegic. The officer shot Pegues about 6:15 p.m. June 12, 2014, inside a laundromat at 1801 N Portland Ave., following a physical altercation between them, police reported [NewsOK].

Oklahoma May Require Restroom Signs in Anti-Abortion Effort: Oklahoma plans to force hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants and public schools to post signs inside public restrooms directing pregnant women where to receive services as part of an effort to reduce abortions in the state. The State Board of Health will consider regulations for the signs on Tuesday. Businesses and other organizations will have to pay an estimated $2.3 million to put up the signs because the Legislature didn’t approve any money for them. The provision for the signs was tucked into a law that the Legislature passed this year that requires the state to develop informational material “for the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society.” [Associated Press]

Quote of the Day

“Oklahomans tend to be very generous and caring, and there are a number of excellent private programs here. However, at the governmental level, we invest very little in those who are disadvantaged.”

-Susan Sharp, a sociology professor at the University of Oklahoma and co-chairwoman of the state’s Children of Incarcerated Parents Advisory Committee, commenting on the importance of programs that connect children with their incarcerated parents and the lack of public support for those programs (Source)

Number of the Day


Percent Oklahoma women made in weekly earnings when compared to their male counterparts in 2014.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

US homelessness declines: What’s working? Chester Ross may soon be a rarity on the sidewalks of Boston. “There’s too many homeless people out here,” says Mr. Ross, bundled in a winter jacket on Boston’s Newbury Street, holding out an emptied plastic cup from 7-Eleven where coins and crumpled dollar bills gather. Sitting with his back against a fence, he’s propped a cardboard sign against his knees that reads: “I believe people help people in need and I am in need of help. Thank you, God Bless.” As he looks down the tree-lined street in Back Bay, one of the city’s wealthiest downtown neighborhoods, he adds: “The housing is too expensive.” [Christian Science Monitor]

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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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