Weekly Wonk: Eliminate justice-related fees and invest in Oklahoma’s justice system | Community voices needed for people-first policy | Capitol Update

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 from OK Policy

Eliminate justice-related fees and invest in Oklahoma’s justice system: When Oklahomans become involved in the justice system, they can quickly accrue massive debt in the form of fees. These fees are collected by the courts and are used to fund essential parts of Oklahoma’s criminal justice system like law enforcement training, public defenders, and the operations of courts themselves. This funding strategy hurts justice-involved Oklahomans, especially those at a financial disadvantage. It also fails to fully fund these services as only a relatively small portion of these fees end up being collected on an irregular schedule. [Cole Allen / OK Policy]

Dispute over settlement proposal for mental health lawsuit points out incongruities (Capitol Update): Pre-trial detainees deemed  dangerous and incompetent to stand trial are experiencing long wait times for ‘restoration of competency’ treatment. In the meantime, people with mental illness who may never be found guilty of a crime are in jail awaiting treatment, and those who should be found guilty, and their victims, await their day of judgment. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Policy Matters: Community voices create people-first policy: To make state laws and policies work on behalf of everyday Oklahomans, our elected officials and policymakers need more input from community members. This is especially true for folks whose lived experiences can guide us all toward solutions that can make a difference. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Weekly What’s That

Supplemental appropriation

A supplemental appropriation is funding approved by the Legislature for a state agency in the middle of a fiscal year, in addition to funds already provided in that year’s initial state budget. Supplemental appropriations generally are made to cover emergencies or unanticipated mid-year budget shortfalls.

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

Quote of the Week

“I know that Oklahomans have big goals for our state. To reach or exceed our goals, we can’t afford to put inclusion and equality on the backburner.”

– Andrew Silvestri, head of state political engagement at Google and former deputy policy director for former Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, writing in an op-ed about the importance of inclusive public policies and workplaces. [The Oklahoman]

Op-Ed of the Week

Opinion: Teens in foster care harmed by legislative measure deemphasizing congregate care

Stability is a cornerstone of any child’s development, yet for many in the foster care system, it remains a rare luxury.

The foster care system, already strained by limited resources, often prioritizes funding over the best interests of the children it serves. This is particularly evident when examining the frequent placement changes that many foster children endure, largely influenced by state reimbursement rates and legislative acts such as the Family First Prevention Services Act.

One of the most vulnerable groups affected by this systemic issue is teenagers in residential therapeutic group homes. These homes are designed to provide a stable environment for healing and growth, offering therapeutic support that many teens desperately need.

However, due to the structure of state reimbursement rates, these teens are often moved prematurely. After a certain period, state funding decreases; therefore, state agencies work to transition children out of these supportive environments, not because they are ready but because of financial constraints.

The Family First Prevention Services Act, while well-intentioned, emphasizes keeping children out of congregate care settings in favor of family-based placements. While the principle is sound, in practice, it can lead to abrupt transitions that do not consider the individual needs and readiness of the child.

[Read the full op-ed from Brittany Stokes at the Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • 79 – Number of hours a minimum wage worker would have to work each week to afford a modest one-bedroom rental home at fair market rent in Oklahoma. [National Low Income Housing Coalition]
  • $0.41 – The average amount that Texas and New Mexico counties in a 2019 study effectively spent for every dollar of revenue they raised from fees and fines on in-court hearings and jail costs. That’s 121 times what the Internal Revenue Service spends to collect taxes and many times what the states themselves spend to collect taxes. [Brennan Center for Justice]

  • $1.6 trillion – Spending power of immigrant households in the United States during 2022. [Immigration Impact]

What We’re Reading


David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.