The Weekly Wonk: Racial disparities in juvenile justice; Hepatitis C in prisons, & 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, we revisited Open Justice Oklahoma’s (OJO) recent report on juvenile justice, which found that while juvenile crime in Oklahoma has plummeted, racial and local disparities remain. Ashley Harvey, Justice Data Analyst, explained why addressing these disparities is key to making progress towards a system that is truly just for all Oklahomans.  You can find other OK Policy pieces on racial disparities in the justice system here.

In Oklahoma prisons, Hepatitis C is an expensive time bomb. Damion Shade, Criminal Justice Policy Analyst, urged lawmakers to take action to save our state millions in new treatment costs, and more importantly, save thousands of Oklahomans from the painful and life-threatening impact of this treatable illness.

In his weekly Journal Record column, former Executive Director David Blatt debunked myths around SQ 780.

OK Policy in the News

Shade and Ryan Gentzler, OJO Director, spoke to Tulsa World and CNHI, respectively, regarding misconceptions surrounding recent criminal justice reforms. The Oklahoman Editorial Board cited OJO’s recent report in a recent editorial on investments in the Office of Juvenile Affairs. Oklahoma Watch cited an OK Policy report in a story about how high caseloads continue to stress Oklahoma’s public defender system. 

Upcoming Opportunities

Documentary Screening and Panel Discussion with OU College of Law: The OU College of Law invites everyone to a screening of the award-winning documentary on Japanese-American internment during World War II: And Then They Came For Us. The screening and discussion will take place on Monday, October 7 at 5:30 pm at the Dick Bell Courtroom. Click here for more details and to RSVP.

Film Screening in Ardmore, Oklahoma with Together OK: Join advocates in Ardmore for a film screening and conversation on RACE: The Power of an Illusion. The event will take place on Thursday, October 10 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm in Ardmore. Click here for more details and to RSVP.

David Blatt Farewell Events and Legacy Fund: Please join us in celebrating outgoing director David Blatt in Oklahoma City on Monday, October 28th from 5-7 pm and in Tulsa on Tuesday, October 29th from 4:30 – 6:30 pm. Both events are free and open to the public. For more information and to RSVP, go to To honor David’s work at OK Policy and ensure that it will continue in the years ahead, we encourage you to contribute to the David Blatt Legacy Fund.

Weekly What’s That

Woolly-Booger, what’s that?

Woolly-booger (or woolly-bugger) is a colloquialism used in Oklahoma and Louisiana politics referring to a provision snuck into legislation, usually in the waning hours or days of session, that is likely to be overlooked. A lobbyist might be overheard saying, “We need to keep an eye out on that deal, we don’t want them to go adding in any woolly-boogers.” Outside the State Capitol, a woolly-booger is the colloquial term for “the larval-stage insect known as the woolly worm or woolly bear; a fishing fly that resembles such an insect.”

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

Quote of the Week

“When people are healthier, they tend to commit less crime. When people are healthier, it tends to improve the quality of life. The reality is this: Collectively we are a rural state. Health care in rural Oklahoma is in crisis. If there’s a way to bring some of our tax dollars back home to benefit the people who live in our state, I don’t know why we wouldn’t do that.”

– Kris Steele, a Republican former Speaker of the House and current Executive Director of The Education and Employment Ministry, explaining his reasons for supporting Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma [The Oklahoman].

Editorial of the Week

Tahlequah Daily Press: Inmates deserve to know why parole is denied

Oklahomans have made it clear that they want criminal justice reform, at the voting booth and elsewhere. And increasingly, so are Americans in general, with a growing number declaring their opposition to for-profit prisons. And the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board’s recent announcement that it will begin explaining why it is denying parole to inmates is seen as part of that evolving process. [Tahlequah Daily Press].

Numbers of the Day

  • $28,867 – The average median household income in North Tulsa in 2018, less than half that of South Tulsa ($59,908)
  • 70% – Decline in violent felonies among Oklahoma youth of all races since 1990.
  • 31,212 – Number of people who have received diagnostic services and treatment for breast and cervical cancer through the Oklahoma Cares program since 2005
  • 435 million – The combined state budget savings on youth detention costs in Oklahoma since 2001 – due to a 64 percent decline in state-level incarcerations of youth during that same period.
  • 70% – Percent of minimum wage earners in Oklahoma who are women.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • The collapse of a hospital empire — and towns left in the wreckage [Kaiser Health News]
  • America has a health-care crisis — in prisons [Governing]
  • Small towns in much of the country are dangerously dependent on punitive fines and fees [Governing]
  • The most cost-effective ways to increase college graduation rates [Brookings]
  • Who watches out for workers? [Brookings]


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.