National organization accepts local justice reform group

Via the Journal Record

OKLAHOMA CITY – The central Oklahoma justice reform organization created by the chamber of commerce has been accepted into the National Network of Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils.

There’s no reason for the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council to try to solve everything on its own, Executive Director Timothy Tardibono said. The national group has a network of 30 criminal justice coordinating councils across the country working toward the same goal.

“There’s other places in the country that are digging out, just as we are,” Tardibono said. “What can we learn from them?”

Tardibono said he will attend the organization’s conference at the end June, “and hopefully take a lot of notes.”

The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber started the effort last year by adding a full-time employee whose sole focus was to implement recommendations from a study by the Vera Institute of Justice. That nonprofit had studied central Oklahoma’s jail, courts and mental health programs and found several shortfalls. Years earlier, the U.S. Department of Justice found numerous problems at the Oklahoma County jail, some of which still haven’t been remedied.

Chamber President Roy Williams at the time said it would be more cost-effective and improve the community overall to find ways to improve the system rather than merely build a bigger, better jail. After Vera completed its review, the chamber formed several committees with members from governments and agencies in the Oklahoma City area.

That led to the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council’s formation at the end of 2017. Tardibono was hired in February. He is the founder of the Family Policy Institute of Oklahoma and served four years as assistant general counsel at the Oklahoma State Department of Health and five years as a policy analyst for Oklahoma’s secretary of health and human services.

To be considered for membership in the NNCJCC, the Oklahoma County organization had to demonstrate that it met several criteria, including successful local or state funding, diverse representation from the justice sector and other partner agencies, a systemwide focus and evidence of data-driven policy and program development. The application process is competitive with a limited number of slots available. Tardibono’s organization was one out of about 45 that applied this year; eight were accepted.

Williams said the county advisory council has a lot of support but no pot of gold to fund all the initiatives. Several government grant applications are in the works, he said, and local philanthropist Sue Ann Arnall offered to fund a retired judge to help reduce bonding workload. Most of the changes so far have been systemic adjustments rather than wholesale creation. However, more funding sources will need to be identified soon, Williams said.

“If someone knows of a pot of gold, please have them call me,” Tardibono said. “The programs that are in place are already funded, so it’s just a matter of understanding how to make them scalable to a larger extent. There are some contracts in place, for example, with the Department of Mental Health that’s providing mental health and substance abuse services. … Part of our job is to go out and find grants and other funding opportunities. Being part of the coordinating council peer network might help us do that.”

Read the original story at journalrecord.com.