In 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.
The Okmulgee County jail director said extreme overcrowding was the cause of a recent violent outbreak that caused $10,000 in damage and sent one inmate to the hospital. The ACLU of Oklahoma said they’ve seen a scary increase in the number and severity of complaints they are receiving from inmates at the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center. The director of Oklahoma Corrections Professionals wrote that a federal takeover of Oklahoma prisons may be the last hope for corrections officers. The Oklahoma wrote an op-ed defending the media’s role in witnessing executions, which the state attorney general’s office argued does not “play a particularly positive role in the functioning of the process.”
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the death of a man who was being held at the Tahlequah City Jail. A state medical examiner’s autopsy report found that a man who fatally stabbed an Oklahoma City police dog was shot four times in the back while running away from the officer who shot him, which contradicts police accounts of the shooting. Although fewer numbers of methamphetamine labs are being discovered across the state, the number of meth-related overdose deaths continues to rise.
Key members of the Oklahoma House met recently with top backers of the half-finished American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City to discuss the way forward for the long-stalled state project. Hillcrest Medical Center will begin offering perinatal palliative care for infants expected to live only hours or days after birth. This will be the first hospital in Oklahoma offering the service, though in February legislators voted to require abortion providers to tell women whose children will not survive long after birth that the service is available. Osage Nation Chief Geoffrey M. Standing Bear announced the tribe will boycott FedEx due to its relationship with the Washington Redskins NFL team.
Enid News reported on Together Oklahoma’s forum in Enid, the first stop of a tour helping Oklahomans understand and get involved in public policy. You can read more about the Together Tuesday tour here. Oklahoma is one of seven states joining the push to add a civics exam requirement to graduate high school. Oklahoma Policy Institute announced our latest class of research fellows and interns. Supporters of an initiative petition to place storm shelters in every Oklahoma public school say they are launching a final push to get enough signatures to put the measure on a statewide ballot with just four weeks left to gather them.
An essay in This Land Press discusses Oklahoma’s dramatic political shifts over the state’s history. As summer ends, drought conditions are still prevailing in much of the state with little relief in sight. Tulsa World editor Adam Daigle discussed his struggles taking a five-day challenge to survive on a food stamp budget. OK Policy previously explained the policy basics of Oklahoma’s food security safety net. The Number of the Day is the poverty rate for Native Americans in Oklahoma in 2013, 6.1 percentage points higher than the state as a whole. In today’s Policy Note, CityLab examines why Americans moving between states has reached a historic low.
In The News
Okmulgee County Jail Director Blames Overcrowding For Recent Riot
A fight at the Okmulgee County jail caused $10,000 in damage and sent one inmate to the hospital. The jail director blames the violent outbreak on extreme overcrowding. The executive director at the jail said the building was originally built for around 150 inmates but there is currently more than double that number. The overcrowding is causing some issues, like what happened there Monday morning.
See also: A letter to the Department of Corrections from the ACLU of Oklahoma regarding Oklahoma’s overcrowded, understaffed corrections system.
Sean Wallace: Federal takeover of Oklahoma prisons is DOC employees’ last hope
Nothing gives many local politicians greater joy than complaining about an intrusive and overbearing federal government these days, but another federal takeover of the state’s prison system may be the last hope Oklahoma’s Department of Corrections employees have. The agency houses 3,000 more prisoners than it did in 2008, but does so with 1,000 fewer employees and $34 million less annually from lawmakers. The employees have been “efficiencied” to death, by being asked or flat-out bullied into doing more with less year after year after year. Yet finding more efficiencies seems to be the only focus of the agency’s new director, Robert Patton.
Man found dead in Tahlequah City Jail
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is helping Tahlequah authorities look into the death of a man who was in police custody when he died, the agency confirmed Tuesday. Jerry Batt, 53, was booked into the Tahlequah City Jail on Friday on a public intoxication complaint, and he was found dead in his cell early Monday, OSBI spokeswoman Beth Green said. Batt was alone in the cell at the time, Green said. Tahlequah Police Chief Nate King told the Tahlequah Daily Press that Batt’s death appears to have been from natural causes, but Green said the OSBI is investigating because he died while in custody.
Media play important role in witnessing executions
When it became clear about 15 minutes into an April 29 execution that there were problems, authorities closed the blinds. Witnesses couldn’t see what was going on in the execution chamber. A lawsuit seeks to keep this from happening again. The state’s formal response suggests, essentially, that the media should get over themselves. In recommending dismissal of a lawsuit filed by media groups and the American Civil Liberties Union, the attorney general’s office says executions traditionally haven’t been open in Oklahoma, “nor does the presence of the press play a particularly positive role in the actual functioning of the process.”
Autopsy details differ from Okahoma City police account in dog death
A state medical examiner’s autopsy report released Tuesday shows the man who fatally stabbed an Oklahoma City police dog in late August was shot four times in the back while running away from the officer who shot him. Mark Salazar, 22, of Blue Mound, Texas, was fatally shot after he fled from the scene of a robbery and stabbed Kye, a 3-year-old police dog, when the dog caught up to him, police said. Tuesday’s report appears to provide a different account of the shooting than that presented by Oklahoma City police after the event.
Meth deaths climb despite lab shutdowns
Although fewer numbers of methamphetamine labs are being discovered across the state, the number of meth-related overdose deaths continues to rise. Last year, 167 people died of meth-related overdoses, while 421 labs were shut down by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. That compares with 140 deaths and 830 lab busts in 2012. Although fewer numbers of methamphetamine labs are being discovered across the state, the number of meth-related overdose deaths continues to rise. Last year, 167 people died of meth-related overdoses, while 421 labs were shut down by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. That compares with 140 deaths and 830 lab busts in 2012.
Oklahoma House members meet to discuss way forward for OKC’s American Indian Cultural Center and Museum
Key members of the Oklahoma House met recently with top backers of the half-finished American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City to discuss the way forward for the long-stalled state project. “It’s a state asset,” House Speaker Jeff Hickman said Tuesday. “We have to do something with it, either complete it or transfer it to somebody else.” While the structure sits idle along the Oklahoma River, generating no revenue, taxpayers continue to pay for its security, maintenance, insurance and bond debt.
Tulsa Hospital First In State To Offer Perinatal Palliative Care
A new perinatal palliative care program is helping mothers who learn that their unborn child will only live hours or days. A Tulsa family who went through that is starting The SILAS Program, named after their son, who died shortly after his birth. It offers families special support as they go through a kind of loss few parents can imagine. The Oklahoma House passed legislation in February, requiring abortion providers to tell women whose unborn children have fatal conditions, that there are services, like The SILAS Program, which allow you to carry the baby full term. This is the first hospital-based service of its kind in Oklahoma.
Osage Nation to boycott FedEx due to association with Washington Redskins
Osage Nation Chief Geoffrey M. Standing Bear issued a directive Tuesday telling all employees to “refrain from using FedEx” when possible due to its relationship with the Washington Redskins National Football League team. The directive states that Redskins’ owner Daniel Snyder “chooses to stick with a brand which dictionaries define as disparaging and offensive. FedEx chose to endorse that brand through their sponsorship of Mr. Snyder’s organization.”
Think tank encourages Enidites to get involved
Even though Oklahoma is tied to dismal statistics in education, incarceration and civic involvement, Kara Joy McKee thinks it’s not time to “tuck our tails.” McKee, who is an outreach specialist with Oklahoma Policy Institute think tank, was in Enid Tuesday as part of the Together Tuesdays statewide tour. The tour, sponsored by the Together Oklahoma coalition, also will visit Lawton, Muskogee, Shawnee, Bartlesville and Norman. The group will be in Woodward Oct. 7 at the Northwestern Oklahoma State University-Woodward commons 5-6:30 p.m.
See also: Together Oklahoma is going on tour! from Together Oklahoma.
Oklahoma To Join Civics Education Initiative
Oklahoma is one of seven states joining the push to add a civics exam requirement, despite efforts to try to reduce state-mandated testing in public schools. Last week, state leaders — among them Attorney General Scott Pruitt and U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn — announced the state would join the Civics Education Initiative, an organized campaign to get every state to enact a civics test requirement by Sept. 17, 2017 — the 230th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. The national campaign is an effort led by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who wants states to require students to pass a civics test before graduating high school.
Introducing our new class of Research Fellows and interns
Oklahoma Policy Institute is very pleased to announce the selection of four Oklahoma graduate students as our second class of OK Policy Research Fellows. The 2014-15 Research Fellows are all distinguished by a combination of strong research interests and an active personal commitment to improving the well-being of disadvantaged Oklahomans.
Take Shelter Oklahoma Not Giving Up The Fight
Supporters of an initiative petition to place storm shelters in every Oklahoma public school say they are short of the number of signatures required to put the measure on a statewide ballot with just four weeks left to gather them. Attorney David Slane said Tuesday that Take Shelter Oklahoma is launching a final push to get the signatures of about 155,000 registered voters needed to get the measure on the ballot.
The Red Shift
North of the Red River, in the “Land of the Red Man,” on the iron-rich red soil and matching dust, with red Russian wheat waving, and rose rocks abounding, and red-tailed hawks circling, and redbuds blooming, the red “46” state flag was flying over the 1914 State Capitol, and inside were six Socialist Party legislators. Our Populist founding fathers then would hardly recognize Oklahoma’s evolution to voting as the “reddest of the red” (Republican). The political path from Oklahoma’s radical roots, which tempered to solid Democrat and evolved to solid Republican, begs for explanation, considering that about 50 percent of Oklahoma voters were registered as Democrats in 2010.
As summer ends, warm, dry conditions persist across Oklahoma
Summer is officially over, but Oklahoma’s drought isn’t. Tuesday marked the first day of autumn, and although August’s heat is over, temperatures in parts of Oklahoma have remained above average. Drought conditions are still prevailing in much of the state, with little relief in sight. Oklahoma state climatologist Gary McManus said warm, dry conditions could cause drought conditions to intensify in parts of the state where a mild, rainy spring and early summer had offered relief from the drought. In other areas, particularly in western and southwestern Oklahoma, desperate drought conditions haven’t broken for years.
My five days on the SNAP Challenge were not fun
I thought I knew hunger. We all think we do, right? You get in a situation where you don’t have time to eat, find yourself hungrier than you thought you’d be and you can’t go on without something to eat. Is that hunger to you? Hunger is worse than that. My only experience with real hunger was years ago when my pay at one newspaper job didn’t go far enough. But last week when my wife and I accepted the SNAP Challenge from the good people at Restore Hope Ministries for five days, I quickly realized my only experience with hunger was nothing.
See also: Policy Basics: Oklahoma’s Food Security Safety Net from OK Policy.
Quote of the Day
“There’s supposed to be two per cell but there’s, like you know, five or six in a cell. People are sleeping under beds and in walkways; some aren’t on mats but on the floor.”
– A woman whose husband was in the Okmulgee County jail, which is currently housing more than double the 150 inmates it was designed to hold. A riot early this week caused $10,000 in damage and sent one inmate to the hospital. Prison officials blamed the riot on “extreme overcrowding.” (Source: http://bit.ly/Y4immr)
Number of the Day
Poverty rate for Native Americans in Oklahoma in 2013, 6.1 percentage points higher than the state as a whole.
Why People Stay Where They Are
From conquering the Western frontier to the great movement to the suburbs, nothing has been more central to the American experience than mobility—the ability to seek out new places offering better homes, more space, better jobs and more economic opportunity. But according to a growing body of data, this long-coveted mobility appears to be slowing substantially. According U.S. Census data, the share of Americans who move each year fell from more than 20 percent during the 1950s and 60s to just 11.7 percent last year, which is just about the lowest level since such statistics have been collected.
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