In The Know: Thunder owner Clayton Bennett is at the forefront of 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

Thunder owner Clayton Bennett is at the forefront of criminal justice reform: From his 31st-floor office, Clay Bennett has a bird’s eye view of the county jail. It seems to sit especially heavy on land, unlike the tower where Bennett spends his days, which rises upwards with an air of aspiration. After years of ignoring something in plain sight, hardly a day goes by in which Bennett doesn’t think about the men and women in that jail, what led them there, and how to change a system he believes wastes Oklahoma City’s most precious resource: its people [Vera Institute].

Mayors of Tulsa, Oklahoma City discuss their cities’ potential, and Amazon, over luncheon: The mayors of Tulsa and Oklahoma City met for lunch Tuesday to discuss the challenges their cities face, briefly focusing on internet giant Amazon’s continent-wide search for the site of its second headquarters. After Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and Mick Cornett, his counterpart from Oklahoma City, gave stump speeches on the challenges their cities face, the first question from an audience member went directly to the topic of Amazon [Tulsa World].

Rural recovery still dependent on oil and gas industry: The downturn in Oklahoma’s economy hit small communities harder than the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metros, but those towns are turning around now, according to Federal Reserve Bank economist Chad Wilkerson. As oil prices stabilized in late 2016 and the first half of this year, rural towns across the state showed a strong rebound, said Wilkerson, vice president of the Oklahoma City branch of the Fed [Journal Record].

New courthouse symbolizes criminal justice reform: Finished in glass, wood and stone, Oklahoma City’s new municipal courthouse is a physical manifestation of an enlightened era in criminal justice. At a dedication ceremony Monday, Presiding Judge Philippa James said Municipal Court reforms of the past several years are intended “to make our work more about those who appear here and less about intimidation.” [NewsOK]

Three days after losing election, Oklahoma County sheriff’s candidate loses job, too: The candidate who came in last in the Sept. 12 special election for Oklahoma County sheriff also lost his job three days later. Ed Grimes, a Canadian County sheriff’s deputy, was fired for allegedly bad mouthing his boss Sept. 13. Canadian County Sheriff Chris West fired Grimes on Friday for “maliciously uttering derogatory, sexist comments about supervisory personnel,” a disciplinary record shows [NewsOK].

Oklahoma City finds 4,000 deleted emails connected to controversy of cop’s conviction: The City of Oklahoma City has found thousands of emails it said were deleted from the account of a now retired police lab employee. The DNA analyst, Elaine Taylor, retired earlier this year and the city said it deleted all her emails when FOX 25 requested records pertaining to her work on the Daniel Holtzclaw case. Holtzclaw is serving a 263-year sentence after a jury convicted him on multiple charges connected to the rape and sexual assault of several women while he was an Oklahoma City Police Officer [KOKH].

Following appointment of Corbin Brewster, shock, frustration, and a wait-and-see approach: It wasn’t even 24 hours after Corbin Brewster had been appointed as Tulsa County’s chief public defender when the mood at the office he would soon lead turned sour. Some employees, stinging from Brewster’s surprise appointment Sept. 7 to lead the Public Defender’s Office, left early to go to a bar. Others stayed in the office, but said it was impossible to focus on work. “No one got their minds back on their caseloads,” one public defender told The Frontier. “It was like a wake at work.” [The Frontier]

How Did Your School Score on the ACT Exam? In the table below, you can find out your high school’s average score on the 2016 ACT college-readiness exam. You also can analyze the table to see if scores in your county, or the state as a whole, tended to be lower among schools with higher poverty rates, defined as the percentage of students on free or reduced-price lunches. Research has shown that low performance on standardized tests tends to correlate with lower income levels. Still, students at some Oklahoma schools with higher poverty rates averaged above the statewide composite-score average of 20.8 [Oklahoma Watch].

Science teacher named 2018 state Teacher of the Year: Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year is Donna Gradel, who teaches environmental science at Broken Arrow High School. She has taught in the district for 21 years. In her acceptance speech Gradel revealed the many great aspects and importance of teaching. “Teaching has created so many opportunities for my students and I,” said Gradel [Oklahoma City Free Press].

Audit Confirms Altered Test Scores at Oklahoma College: An audit has found that test results were repeatedly altered for an adult basic education program at Oklahoma City Community College. The audit conducted by Oklahoma City accounting firm Crawford & Associates found six of the students who were selected for review had alterations on their scan sheets, including erased and replaced names. The audit also said 17 other student records had “conflicting data entry errors” and that “student files were not being consistently maintained.” [Associated Press]

Save Our State Coalition will host “Blueprint for a Better Budget: A Community Conversation” in Lawton: Save Our State, a non-partisan coalition of Oklahoma organizations concerned about how recent budget cuts are harming Oklahoma families, will launch their community conversations in Lawton on October 3rd. Save Our State wants to hear from Oklahomans who’ve been directly harmed by budget cuts to talk through solutions to put Oklahoma communities back on a path to prosperity [KSWO].

Why it’s taking so long to implement Oklahoma’s liquor laws: Oklahomans overwhelmingly passed State Question 792 last November, allowing the sale of full-strength beer and wine at grocery stores, and allowing liquor stores to carry refrigerated beer. The new law doesn’t go into effect until October 1st of 2018, and KRMG has had several questions about why it’s taking so long. Lisette Barnes with the Oklahoma Beer Alliance says there are two main reasons the legislature delayed implementation. The first involves the 18 “dry” counties in Oklahoma [KRMG].

Quote of the Day

“We all make mistakes. I have. But I am fortunate enough to have the resources and ability to work my way out of trouble. They’re stuck in trouble mainly because they don’t have money. That’s not something we can allow to continue.”

– Oklahoma City Thunder Chairman Clay Bennett, a leader in efforts to reform the Oklahoma County criminal justice system. As a result, Oklahoma City Police recently ended the practice of jailing people for failure to pay their court costs (Source)

Number of the Day


Oklahoma youth aged 16 to 24 who are neither in school or employed, 2015.

Source: Prosperity Now

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How States Can Help Curb Opioid Misuse: As the opioid crisis continues to ravage communities across the United States, policymakers and public health officials are increasingly using new tools such as prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs)—state-based electronic databases that track the dispensing of certain controlled substances—to stem the misuse of prescription opioids and reduce overdose deaths. PDMPs can be used to monitor patient use of these drugs and inform prescribing decisions. However, the number of prescribers actually using these databases in clinical care remains low [Pew Trusts].

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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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