In The Know: Oklahoma Department of Corrections considers ways to release nonviolent inmates

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

Oklahoma Department of Corrections considers ways to release nonviolent inmates: Facing the challenges of a prison population that has been bloated for years, Oklahoma Department of Corrections officials say with no help from the state Legislature they are now considering options to “open the backdoor”. The department is developing a program to allow a select group of nonviolent inmates to leave state prisons and finish their sentences in community supervision programs, administrators told the Oklahoma Board of Corrections on Tuesday at its monthly meeting [NewsOK]. The effects of budget cuts on prisons are hidden but dangerous [OK Policy].

Millions of gallons of oil, wastewater spilled over last three years, state data shows: From 2014 to 2016, Oklahoma oil and gas operators spilled more than 1.2 million gallons of oil and 9.2 million gallons of wastewater throughout the state, according to an analysis by The Frontier of spill data from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. A little more than half — 52 percent — of the oil estimated by the Corporation Commission to have been released during that time was recovered by the operator or a remediation company, and about two-thirds of the wastewater released was recovered, according to the data [The Frontier].

Oklahoma VA officials work on reducing patient wait times: Average wait times for new veterans getting primary care appointments at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center are about 20 days. Mark Morgan, director of the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System, said that is unacceptable. While VA officials are working on the issue, he said they face numerous challenges. Among the challenges is a steep jump in the number of veterans making appointments in an average month. For example, from May 2016 to May 2017 there was an increase of 1,997 appointments, representing a 12 percent increase, said Nita McClellan, VA public information officer [CNHI].

Oklahoma Senators react after Senate votes to move forward with health care bill: Both U.S Senators from Oklahoma voted to begin debate on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act Tuesday. Vice President Mike Pence split an even vote to move forward with the bill. The Senate will now begin formal debate. U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) are responding after the Senate voted to move forward and begin debate on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act Tuesday. Both senators were among the 50 Republicans who voted in favor of moving forward with a procedural motion to begin debate on a Senate bill [KOKI]. The Senate has already voted down one proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the first of many to be considered [Washington Post].

State budget woes could affect brain tumor patients: Christopher Espinosa has a brain tumor. The 35-year-old is a single parent, raising his two children. He’s disabled and can’t drive, so his father takes him to medical appointments and to family therapy appointments with his children. But he could lose some of the mental health services he depends upon because of the state’s budget cuts [Journal Record].

Garfield County Sheriff Jerry Niles charged with second-degree manslaughter in inmate’s death: Garfield County Sheriff Jerry Niles has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in a jail inmate’s death. He was led from the courthouse to be booked at the jail after his first court appearance Tuesday on the felony indictment. His attorney told the judge he is pleading not guilty. Also charged with second-degree manslaughter are five defendants who worked at the jail at the time of the death last year [NewsOK].

Former Tulsa County DA confirms involvement in felony case against great-grandson of Rhema Bible College founder: Former Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris has played a role in negotiating with prosecutors in a drive-by shooting case against a teenager whose late great-grandfather was the creator of Rhema Bible Training College and Harris’ longtime acquaintance, he confirmed Tuesday. Blake Kenneth Hagin, 19, is one of three people charged with using a vehicle while discharging a weapon at a home in the 1100 block of North Cypress Avenue in Broken Arrow on March 10 [Tulsa World].

City election cycle change is needed: In 1989, voters in Tulsa approved a new city charter, and it seems like we’ve been messing with it ever since. The city has revised or considered revising that charter in 13 subsequent elections. Many of those votes brought multiple charter revisions before city voters. How we elected our mayor, City Council and city auditor — when elections are held, how long they will serve in office and what their salaries will be — have been a theme in many of those charter changes [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

OKCPS board tables vote on allowing those with felonies to volunteer: Monday, the school board for Oklahoma City Public Schools decided to delay a vote on a new volunteering policy. The item will be taken up at the next meeting in August. The policy proposal would allow some people with felony convictions to be eligible to volunteer at OKCPS schools [Fox 25]. 

Gubernatorial candidate endorses marijuana state question: Former State Senator and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Connie Johnson is endorsing State Question 788, which would legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma. Johnson has been a longtime supporter of medical marijuana and decriminalization [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“I’m not trying to throw the Legislature under the bus, but somebody has got to make a move here… or there’s going to be a serious event. We’re just trying to be proactive in thinking a different way.”

– Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh, explaining the agency’s plan to release additional nonviolent inmates to community supervision programs in order to ease overcrowding in the state’s prisons (Source)

Number of the Day


Share of non-elderly Oklahomans with disabilities who receive SNAP benefits, 2013-2015

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Shoplifting in Chicago dropped after a change in the food stamp program: Spreading out when food stamps are issued reduced theft from Chicago grocery stores by more than 30 percent, according to new research from Analisa Packham of Miami University and Jillian Carr of Purdue University. Before 2010, most benefits in Illinois under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the massive federal food stamp program, were given out on the first of the month. In 2010, the state enacted a new policy that spread distribution more evenly throughout the month [Washington Post].

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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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