The Weekly Wonk: A call for criminal justice reform and more

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This week’s edition of The Weekly Wonk was published with contributions from Open Justice Oklahoma Intern Thomas Gao.

This Week from OK Policy

This week, OK Policy announced a new board member: University of Oklahoma-Tulsa President John H. Schumann, MD. “We’re excited to have someone with Dr. Schumann’s significant experience that strengthens our board’s expertise, especially in the many places where public policy intersects with health care and education,” said OK Policy Board Chair Don Millican. 

In her weekly Journal Record column, Executive Director Ahniwake Rose outlined two targeted criminal justice reforms that would help address Oklahoma’s broken justice system in response to the Criminal Justice RESTORE Task Force report. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update was also focused on the task force’s report, noting that Senate Bill 252 would address problems with bail and pretrial detention identified by the task force.

OK Policy in the News

Criminal Justice Policy Analyst Damion Shade spoke to The Oklahoman about a bill that would help address racial disparities in Oklahoma’s justice system. William C. Kellough cited OK Policy in an editorial for the Tulsa World about State Question 781 and the funding it is supposed to provide for mental health and substance use disorder treatment. The Duncan Banner and The Lawton Constitution published information about an upcoming Together Oklahoma event in Duncan. 

Upcoming Opportunities

Tulsa: Together Oklahoma Chapter Meeting: Join advocates in Tulsa for the first Tulsa chapter meeting of the year. The meeting will be Sunday, January 19 at 1:30 p.m. at the Rudisill Regional Library. Click here to learn more and RSVP.

Duncan: A Community Conversation: Together Oklahoma will be hosting a conversation around race, equity, and public policy. This town-hall style event will be held in Duncan this Monday, January 20 at 6 p.m. It will be an opportunity for New Visions, Thick Descriptions, and Together OK to partner with community members and leaders for a conversation around the past, the present and the future of the community and state. Click here to learn more and RSVP.

Saving Our Future, Ending Cash Bail: Together Oklahoma and Block Builderz will be sponsoring a dialogue about the negative impacts of Oklahoma’s cash bail system on families and communities. The event will be held 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Vernon AME Church, 311 N. Greenwood, Tulsa. Click here to learn more or RSVP

Stillwater: Together Oklahoma Chapter Meeting: Join advocates in Stillwater as they re-launch their local Together Oklahoma chapter. The event will take place Sunday, January 26 at 3:30 p.m. at the Stillwater Public Library. Click here to learn more and RSVP.

Weekly What’s That

Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT), what’s that?

The Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT), created by SB 1 in 2019, is a division within the Legislative Service Bureau intended to provide greater legislative oversight of state agency budgets. Duties of the Office include gathering information related to proposed agency budgets; evaluating the extent to which each agency fulfills its statutory responsibilities; determining the amount of revenue available to the agency from various sources; comparing current budget information to prior agency requests; and conducting an investigation of any agency as needed to fulfill its responsibilities. The Office is also authorized to conduct performance evaluations and independent comprehensive performance audits.

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

Quote of the Week

“By not paying them a fair wage, you’re not just hurting inmates. You’re hurting victims who can’t get paid their restitution, and you’re hurting children whose parents are not getting paid their child support.”

-House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, about Oklahoma prison labor contracts [NonDoc]

Editorial of the Week

Oklahoma needs a stronger criminal justice reform plan than what was offered by Gov. Stitt’s task force:

[T]he task force’s relatively small initiatives concentrate on preparing prisoners for release, not on fixing the broken system. Reforming the criminal justice system requires something different — statutory changes designed to put fewer people behind bars in the first place.

Oklahomans have waited long enough. It’s time for concrete, evidence-based measures to reduce our bulging prisons in a safe and effective manner.

That means bail reform, structural changes to criminal sentencing, alternative courts, mental health resources, education opportunities and job training. [Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • 60% – Percent of Oklahoma PK-12 students who are economically disadvantaged
  • $663,557,851 – Estimated amount of uncollected court fines and fees between 2012 and 2018
  • 3,091 – Number of emergency certified teachers in Oklahoma from July-November 2019, up from 3,038 in the 2018-2019 school year
  • 8.94% – Average state and local sales tax rate in Oklahoma, ranking us as the 7th highest sales tax state
  • 74% – Percent of Oklahoma 4-year-olds enrolled in public pre-k programs, compared to only 33 percent nationally

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Return To Sender: A single undeliverable letter can mean losing Medicaid [The Atlantic]
  • Before their day in court, poor people charged with crimes can spend years in jail [The Kansas City Star]
  • America’s parents want paid family leave and affordable child care. Why can’t they get it? [USA Today]
  • Extending Medicaid after childbirth could reduce maternal deaths [Pew Trusts]
  • When it comes to access to clean water, ‘race is still strongest determinant,’ report says. [NBC]


Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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