In The Know: State to again attempt to address criminal justice reform

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

State to again attempt to address criminal justice reform: The state of Oklahoma once again will take a stab at criminal justice reform, officials said Wednesday. The announcement comes after years of unsuccessful efforts to reduce the prison population. Gov. Mary Fallin said Wednesday she expects a task force she appointed in July to come up with recommendations in December that can be used as the basis for legislation in the 2017 legislative session [Tulsa World]. Significant reductions in incarceration will require a smarter approach to both non-violent and more serious crimes [OK Policy].

State ranked 44th for access to justice: Oklahoma is one of the lowest-ranking states for access to justice, but a national advocate said he believes the state is now on the right track. In an annual report published by The Justice Index, Oklahoma ranked 44th. The state had low marks in attorney access, support for people representing themselves in court and access for people who aren’t fluent in English. However, Legal Services Corp. President James Sandman told the Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission to not be disappointed [Journal Record].

In Oklahoma, Child Care Providers Are Closing Their Doors: After 23 years in the child-care industry, Laura Hatcher is edging toward a decision she doesn’t want to make. The 51-year-old Antlers resident runs one of the four licensed day-care facilities in Pushmataha County in southeast Oklahoma. But she questions whether she can keep her doors open beyond another year or two because running the business is getting more expensive and difficult. “It’s a struggle and I’m working 11, 12 hours a day,” she said. “If it continues the way it is, I’m not going to be able to keep going.” [Oklahoma Watch] An earlier child care subsidy freeze has been lifted, but remains endangered [OK Policy]. Child care is getting less accessible for Oklahoma’s working parents [OK Policy].

Survey shows fewer Oklahoma students smoking, driving distracted: Fewer Oklahoma youths are smoking and driving distracted, according to a recent statewide survey, but obesity and video game use are on the rise. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey, developed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is conducted every other year in public high schools throughout the state. The survey allows the Oklahoma State Department of Health and other agencies to monitor priority risk behaviors that can contribute to the leading causes of death, disability and social problems [Tulsa World].

College officials report negative impacts of budget cuts: State funding cuts to higher education are impacting students and programs in a variety of ways, from enrollment caps to degree-completion efforts. Officials from seven colleges and universities reported concerns Wednesday when they addressed the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. The University of Central Oklahoma is understaffed by 100 faculty and 80 professional positions this academic year following a 16 percent cut in state funding, President Don Betz said [NewsOK]. The link between education levels and state prosperity is clear, which is one reason this year’s higher education cuts are so disturbing [OK Policy].

Oklahoma is missing a big opportunity to improve mental illness and addiction treatment: One of the most successful ways that’s been found to help people escape from opioid addiction is through medications that partially mimic the effect of more dangerous opioids while causing less intoxication and less physical dependence. Despite the success of these medications, a continuing stigma around their use means that health care providers are often wary. Oklahoma’s health care leaders aim to fix that, which is why several doctors’ groups and state officials recently hosted a training on appropriate use of these drugs. With heroin overdose deaths on the rise, their efforts should be applauded [OK Policy].

Federal agency awards $950,000 to Oklahoma to help address opioid epidemic: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday announced it will give $950,000 to Oklahoma in support of improved access to treatment for opioid-use disorders. The Medication-Assisted Treatment Prescription Drug Opioid Addiction Grants will provide up to $11 million to 11 states to expand access to medication-assisted treatment services for people with opioid-use disorder [Tulsa World].

Fallin Softens Stance On Teacher Raise Money: After a press conference for her criminal justice task force Wednesday, Gov. Mary Fallin took questions from reporters on what will be done with more than $140 million dollars in leftover money from last fiscal year. However, Fallin signaled she may be changing stance on the answer. “I have different ideas on how to get other revenue for the teacher pay raises and maybe be able to return some of that $140 million back to the state agencies prioritize for certain needs,” Fallin said [NewsOn6].

Democrat Tom Guild calls off recount in 5th district race: Tom Guild, who lost the Democratic runoff for the 5th Congressional District by 40 votes, on Wednesday called off a recount. With most of the recount done, he had lost three votes from his total and the winner, Al McCaffrey, of Oklahoma City, had picked up a single extra vote, said state Election Board spokesman Bryan Dean. On Friday, Guild requested a recount in Oklahoma and Seminole counties [NewsOK].

Oklahoma governor says auditor’s office should remain in Capitol: Controversy over a plan to force the state auditor’s office to move from the Capitol building continued to escalate Wednesday with some key Senate and House leaders insisting they had nothing to do with the decision. Meanwhile, Gov. Mary Fallin weighed in on the issue Wednesday, saying she believes the state auditor’s office should remain in the Capitol. “Certainly I think it is important for a state elected official to have an office in the Capitol,” Fallin said [NewsOK].

Gomez to join nursing home group: Nico Gomez, who is resigning as head of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, will take a job leading an association focused on nursing homes. The Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers on Wednesday said Gomez will be named president and chief executive officer of the group in October. He plans to leave his present position at the end of September after working for the state for 20 years [NewsOK].

Prosperity Policy: Four-day school week leaves more kids hungry: One of the most visible consequences of Oklahoma’s decision to cut taxes instead of investing in what helps communities thrive is the increasing number of school districts – some 150 according to a recent Associated Press report – that have gone to a four-day school week. Shortened school weeks may save schools money, but at the cost of troubling side effects, ranging from working families suddenly needing child care to the potential detriment to learning. Perhaps the most troubling consequence is that children whose only reliable meals most days come at school could be going hungry [David Blatt / Journal Record].

DHS IT bunker transitions to state data center: State Representatives Jason Murphey and Mark Lepak, who currently serve as the Chair and Vice-Chair of the House State Government Operations Committee respectively, are taking note of an important milestone in the effort to unify Oklahoma state government’s information technology resources. In a recently released report, state IT officials have documented the transition of the IT assets from the Department of Human Services (DHS) IT bunker to the state’s data center [KSWO].

Jobless rates rise in 71 counties: Unemployment rates increased in 71 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties in July from July 2015. Jobless rates were lower in four counties and unchanged in two counties, according to a monthly report from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. Stephens County had the highest unemployment rate in July for any of the 77 Oklahoma counties, with 10.9 percent. Latimer County had the second-highest jobless rate for the month at 9.9 percent and McIntosh County was third at 9.3 percent [Journal Record].

Quote of the Day

“Oklahoma prisons, as we all know, are over capacity right now. Looking at our projections, they are going to continue to grow unless we change the dynamics in our state.”

– Gov. Fallin, announcing that a task force appointed in July will develop criminal justice reform recommendations for the 2017 legislative session (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of students who came from out-of-state to attend an Oklahoma public college in 2014, compared to 1,177 who left Oklahoma for other states.

Source: U.S. Department of Education via New York Times

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Obamacare is helping more poor patients get to the doctor even as political battles continue: Even as the Affordable Care Act remains a political flash point, new research shows it is dramatically improving poor patients’ access to medical care in states that have used the law to expand their Medicaid safety net. After just two years of expanded coverage, patients in expansion states are going to the doctor more frequently and having less trouble paying for it. At the same time, the experience in those states suggests better access will ultimately improve patients’ health, as patients get more regular checkups and seek care for chronic illnesses such diabetes and heart disease [Los Angeles Times].

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

One thought on “In The Know: State to again attempt to address criminal justice reform

  1. What that well-known kidder Einstein would say about Fallin’s latest “reform” gesture with the same “stakeholders” holding virtual vetoes as other “reform” efforts:

    “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

    “You can’t solve problems with the same people who caused them.”

    “I know of only two things that are infinite: the universe and human stupidity. And I’m not sure about the universe.”

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