In OKC, criminal justice advisory council meets for first time. County jail, alternatives are topics

Efforts to reform the local justice system moved forward Tuesday as the newly formed Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council held its first meeting.

The first action of the “interlocal” government council was to elect Clay Bennett as chairman.

Bennett called the meeting “an important juncture” in the criminal justice reform process and in “taking care of our brothers and sisters in a more effective way.”

The council is comprised of law enforcement, criminal justice and civic leaders from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Edmond and Midwest City. The council has no legal authority but will steer reforms.

Formed on the recommendation of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber's Criminal Justice Reform Task Force and the nonprofit Vera Institute of Justice, the council's creation is seen by many as the most critical step in advancing needed reforms.

One aim is to increase public safety and improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system in Oklahoma County. Another key reform would be to divert more offenders from jail to mental health and addiction treatment, and other alternatives.

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