Criminal Justice Reform in the News

  • (OETA) Dollars for Dimes: Oklahoma's Criminal Fees May Be Costing You Money

    With the state budget tighter than ever, efforts to collect criminal fines and fees have been ramped up to help fill the funding gap. But is that process cost effective? The problem of extraordinary and costly efforts to collect fees from criminal defendants has caught the attention of state and local leaders who are pushing for changes.   Read More...

  • Journal Record editorial: Criminal justice reforms overdue

    In July 1973, one of the worst prison riots in history occurred at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.The cause was overcrowding, poorly trained guards, and then-Gov. David Hall’s refusal to improve conditions by authorizing parole for nonviolent drug offenders.One of the most important topics the business community wanted to see addressed this legislative session was criminal justice reform. The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s 2017 Legislative Agenda was clear: &ldquo...  Read More...

  • Oklahoma state rep: Being smart on crime is smart on our wallets

    By State Rep. Bobby ClevelandAs we enter the second half of this legislative session, there has been plenty of talk about how to fix our state's $878 million budget hole: Raise taxes. End credits.   Read More...

  • Criminal justice reforms face critical juncture in Oklahoma Legislature

    Oklahoma criminal justice reform advocates are ecstatic — almost giddy.In less than two months, a dozen separate bills crafted with the overarching goal of lowering the state's high incarceration rate while simultaneously improving public safety have received initial favorable votes in the House or Senate and are awaiting further action."These bills represent the most significant progress yet on criminal justice reform in Oklahoma," said former House Speaker Kris Steele, an o...  Read More...

  • Governor applauds passage of criminal justice reform bills

    Tuesday was a banner day for advocates of Oklahoma criminal justice reform as the state Senate passed eight separate bills that were written with the goal of lowering Oklahoma's high incarceration rate while preserving public safety."These historic votes will improve public safety in Oklahoma and save our state $1.9 billion," said Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, whose criminal justice reform task force recommended the bulk of the changes currently being considered by the Legislature."Making smart, da...  Read More...

  • Oklahoma Legislature takes up criminal justice reform measures (NewsOK)

    The reforms, recommended by a task force created by Gov. Mary Fallin, are designed to relieve overcrowding and eliminate the need for about 7,830 additional state prison beds by 2026. Without the reforms, three new prisons would be needed, costing the state about $1.9 billion in additional capital expenditures and operating costs over the next 10 years, the governor's task force said...  Read More...

  • OKC Chamber CEO Williams: Continuing criminal justice reform

    Oklahoma and Oklahoma City have both enjoyed many accolades that point to our healthy business climate, ideal quality of life and low cost of doing business. However, there are a few rankings relating to our criminal justice system that we can’t brag about. Oklahoma has the second-highest incarceration rate in the country and the highest incarceration rate for females.   Read More...

  • Manhattan Institute researchers: In reforming Oklahoma criminal justice, don’t forget overcriminalization

    By James R. Copland and Rafael A. MangualOn Feb.   Read More...

  • Chamber leaders: Legislature should support justice reform recommendations

    As business leaders, we have a stake in ensuring that our communities are safe and that our tax dollars are spent in ways that strengthen our workforce and keep our families whole. As members of the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force, we believe any reforms to our criminal justice system should be fiscally sound, data-driven, and keep Oklahomans safe, and that's why we support the recommendations advanced Thursday.  During the course of the past seven months the task force, made up of a...  Read More...

  • Report lays out flaws in local justice system

    By The Oklahoman Editorial Board IN their report detailing the issues and challenges associated with improving the criminal justice system in Oklahoma County, officials with a national nonprofit made this important point: “If the will and the commitment is there, Oklahoma County can have a significantly smaller jail.”This is the ultimate goal — to reduce the number of people who wind up in the county jail every year. Opened in 1991 with a capacity of 1,200, the jail for the pas...  Read More...

  • Jail task force sees long-term savings but short-term costs

    By Brian BrusOKLAHOMA CITY – Members of a task force on how to fix the Oklahoma County jail and justice system agree that systemwide reform will lead to savings in the long run, but the upfront costs are going to be a challenge.“We’re going to need some staffing and office space, for example,” said Ray Vaughn, a county commissioner and a member of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s criminal justice task force. “There’s already been discussions at a very...  Read More...

  • “It’s not even an emergency. It’s desperation,” Thunder owner leads movement to reform jail

    By Ali MeyerOKLAHOMA CITY - Leaders are teaming up to finally fix years of expensive issues at the Oklahoma County Jail.The jail was just one of the topics Wednesday, when the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce Criminal Justice Task Force released their recommendations.Oklahoma City Thunder majority owner Clay Bennett is leading the task force."It's not even an emergency. It's desperation," Bennett said. "The objective is to reform the system, fix the jail and, most...  Read More...

  • Greater Oklahoma City Chamber Task Force Announces Recommendations for Reform of Oklahoma County’s Criminal Justice System

    The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s Criminal Justice Task Force released a series of recommendations today designed to ease overcrowding conditions at the Oklahoma County Jail and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system. The recommendations follow a year-long assessment of the various processes that affect the jail population, the decisions that drive these processes, and the costs associated with these decisions.The task force received policy and research analysi...  Read More...

  • Jail task force calls addiction, mental health services crucial

    by Jaclyn Cosgrove OKLAHOMA CITY - A new jail will not fix Oklahoma County's problems.That is one of the key points in a report released Wednesday by the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce's criminal justice reform task force."If nothing is done to address the systemic drivers of jail overcrowding described in this report," the report notes, "any new facility, regardless of its size, will experience the same problems as the current facility."City leaders host...  Read More...

  • Approach to '85 percent' crimes is one challenge for Oklahoma criminal justice panel

    It will be interesting to see what recommendations are made by a task force that's been working on criminal justice reform since July. One thing that seems evident is that Oklahoma's list of “85 percent” crimes won't be getting much shorter.These crimes require offenders to serve 85 percent of their sentences before they can be considered for parole. The original list of crimes, which were the product of a 1997 bill called the Truth in Sentencing Act, related to violent o...  Read More...

  • Morality and money: Criminal justice reform takes a step forward in Oklahoma

    It’s wrong. It costs too much. Put those arguments together, and you have a potent political message on criminal justice reform, evidenced by the electoral success of a pair of initiatives in Oklahoma aimed at reducing incarceration rates and reallocating funding to drug treatment programs.Right on Crime state director Andrew Speno characterized his organization’s support for questions 780 and 781, both of which were approved on election day, in primarily fiscal terms.“We&rsquo...  Read More...

  • Oklahoma voters pass criminal justice reform state questions

    Voters were able to decide whether or not they wanted criminal justice reform in the state.State Question 780 would reclassify some criminal offenses, like drug possession and property crimes, to misdemeanors instead of felonies. Supporters say treating drug addiction is much more effective than sending offenders to prison, and say it would save the state millions since half of all people incarcerated in Oklahoma are considered non-violent offenders.“In states that have already implemented a var...  Read More...

  • More Women Head to State Prisons

    By Clifton AdcockOklahoma WatchDespite years of concern over Oklahoma’s high rate of female incarceration, the number of women sent to prison jumped again in the latest fiscal year.In fiscal 2016, which ended June 30, the number of women sent to Oklahoma prisons rose by 9.5 percent, from 1,593 to 1,744, data from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows. The total men imprisoned that year fell by about 1 percent, to 8,282. Statewide, the number of incoming offenders increased by less than 1 ...  Read More...

  • More people with mental illnesses are ending up in jail, the 'asylum of last resort'

    More people with serious mental illnesses are ending up in county jails across the country , a recent report from Public Citizen and the Treatment Advocacy Center shows. The report, which included survey data from 230 sheriffs’ departments from 39 states, including Oklahoma, outlined the challenges that jail staffs face in overseeing this population. For one, inmates with untreated serious mental illnesses are more likely to be victimized by other inmates, attempt suicide and lash out at j...  Read More...

  • Rise in OK County jail deaths yet another reason for significant justice reform

    A task force that's working on ways to reform the criminal justice system in Oklahoma County has another compelling reason to come up with meaningful proposals: too many inmates are dying while in custody at the county jail.The Oklahoman's Nolan Clay outlined the troubling trend in a recent story. Thus far in 2016, nine inmates (seven males, two females) have died in custody. That's five more than the total for all of 2015, and three more than the total for 2014.   Read More...

  • Steps forward and back in criminal justice legislation this year

    by Ryan Gentzler | June 14th, 2016 |OKPolicy.orgThe Oklahoma Legislature took some important steps on criminal justice reform in the 2016 session. This progress is the result of a collaborative effort by dozens of stakeholders to reduce penalties on low-level crimes and make alternative sentencing more accessible. Unfortunately, lawmakers’ longer track record of ratcheting up sentencing and expanding the criminal code was also on display this session.Steps forwardThese are some of the posi...  Read More...

  • More Than Half of Oklahoma Inmates Struggle With Mental Illness

    Oklahoma’s prisons have become the new psychiatric hospitals. Fifty-seven percent of Oklahoma inmates struggle with mental illness. Oklahoman reporter Jaclyn Cosgrove takes us to meet one of them.Each morning, Justus Skyler Cobbs wakes up inside the Oklahoma Department of Corrections’ mental health unit, housed inside Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington, Oklahoma.   Read More...

  • Oklahoma Governor Signs Criminal Justice Measures Into Law

    By Kate Carlton Greer, Associated Press & KOSU News • Apr 27, 2016Governor Mary Fallin signed into law a number of criminal justice reform bills Wednesday. The legislation is part of recommendations from a steering committee that met in the fall.The governor signed:House Bill 2472, which gives prosecutors discretion to file charges for non-85 percent crimes as misdemeanors instead of felonies.House Bill 2479, which reduces the minimum mandatory punishment for drug offenders charged only...  Read More...

  • Oklahoma County presiding judge vows to change bail procedures

    Oklahoma County's new presiding judge is promising to require judges who see jailed inmates for the first time to use discretion in setting bail and not just rigidly follow a bond schedule."It's my intention to make some changes in how setting bonds has been approached in the past," District Judge Don Deason said. "We need to have practices in place that mandate that we exercise discretion in appropriate circumstances ... not rubber stamp it."His announcement of a c...  Read More...

  • Cooperation with Vera Institute Could Lead to Significant Jail Reform

    The Oklahoma Legal Group BlogAdam Banner - Monday, February 15, 2016Almost since its first day in operation in 1991, the Oklahoma County Jail has been plagued with problems. In recent years, the jail's issues became so severe that the United States Department of Justice has threatened civil litigation and a federal takeover if the county did not clean up its act when it came to the jail. After an investigation revealed more than 60 civil liberties violations at the jail, the Justice Departm...  Read More...

  • Oklahoma County jail report draws praise from task force members

    A consultant's report on the Oklahoma County jail was a real eye-opener to some members of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Task Force, while others said it got right to the heart of issues that need to be addressed."I think for years we've had a debtor's prison. I think what we're doing to offenders is unconscionable," said Oklahoma County Public Defender Bob Ravitz, who serves on the 17-member task force.Ravitz said the initial report of the Vera Institute of ...  Read More...

  • Oklahoma County gets two-year reprieve to resolve jail issues

    by Randy Ellis Published: January 19, 2016 Updated: Jan 19, 2016Impressed with initial steps civic leaders have taken to resolve Oklahoma County's overcrowded jail and criminal justice issues, the U.S. Department of Justice has agreed to postpone potential civil rights litigation for at least two years."The threat of a takeover is now on the sideline," Roy Williams, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, said Tuesday during a meeting of the Rotary Club of Oklahoma City.De...  Read More...

  • Deferred decisions: Feds give county two more years to fix jail

    By: Dale Denwalt The Journal Record January 19, 2016OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorneys with the U.S. Department of Justice have agreed to hold an action for two years while Oklahoma County remedies its jail situation.District Attorney David Prater said he met with the DOJ a week ago in Washington, D.C., and asked for the reprieve, which would prevent any federally initiated civil rights court action against the county. The DOJ could have entered a consent decree or filed a lawsuit – both...  Read More...

  • Improving Oklahoma County's justice system

    Tuesday, January 19, 2016Because of the efforts by a new Chamber-led task force to take a holistic look at the Oklahoma County justice system, the U.S. Justice Department has loosened  its immediate pressure to fix problems at the Oklahoma County Jail, Roy Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, told members of the Downtown Rotary Club on Tuesday.The justice department will now give Oklahoma County two years to institute changes without the threat of a takeover, Wi...  Read More...

  • VERA report to Oklahoma County Task Force

    Date: December 23, 2015 To: Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Task ForceSubject: Preliminary Observations and Recommendations on Addressing Jail Population Growth in Oklahoma County  From: Vera Institute of Justice Nancy Fishman, Project Director, Center on Sentencing and Corrections Rebecca Silber, Senior Program Associate, Center on Sentencing and Corrections I. INTRODUCTION This memorandum summarizes the Vera Institute’s (Vera) preliminary observations on the local cr...  Read More...

  • In Oklahoma City, a welcome conversation about criminal justice

    by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: December 6, 2015IT was significant indeed that the topic of discussion at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber Forum for December wasn't the economy or the progress of MAPS 3 or another issue with a clear business tie. Instead it was criminal justice, particularly the need to move away from a system that keeps too many people locked in the county jail, and for too long.A 17-member task force, composed of business leaders, law enforcement, county offi...  Read More...

  • New Task Force Plans Reforms for Overcrowded Oklahoma County Jail

    By Kate Carlton Greer • Dec 2, 2015The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber Wednesday outlined a new approach to reform Oklahoma County’s overcrowded jail and increase public safety. Members of the Criminal Justice Task Force hope to implement an action plan starting as early as next year.The task force is designed to evaluate the criminal justice system in Oklahoma County with help from the VERA Institute of Justice, an independent think tank based in New York.Task force chairman Clay Benne...  Read More...

  • Locked in on solutions: Task force will look at county jail, criminal justice reform

    By: Brian Brus The Journal Record December 2, 2015OKLAHOMA CITY – The multimillion-dollar funding of federally mandated improvements at the Oklahoma County Jail will likely be resolved before the next presidential election via sales tax or property tax, Clayton Bennett said Wednesday.Bennett, who is president of Dorchester Capital and past chairman of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, also told a chamber forum luncheon that correcting long-standing problems at the jail will require m...  Read More...

  • OKC Chamber announces Oklahoma County criminal justice task force

    Calls for multifaceted approach to reduce incarcerationOklahoma City (December 2, 2015) -- The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber today announced the creation of a special task force to evaluate Oklahoma County’s criminal justice system and make recommendations to reduce incarceration, increase efficiencies and improve safety. The work of the task force is in preparation for future investments in the county’s jail and other related facilities.The task force is being chaired by Clay Bennet...  Read More...

  • Oklahoma County commissioner: Group's input will help with jail solutions

    A recent visit with members of the Vera Institute of Justice gives me hope that Oklahoma County will soon find real and palpable solutions to very complex issues facing the Oklahoma County Adult Detention Center and criminal justice across our state.Vera's proof of performance in other jurisdictions is enticing. They are using standards “grounded in the principle that people should be detained pending adjudication only when they pose a significant risk to public safety or of flight.&r...  Read More...

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twitter.com/smartsafeokco | smartandsafe@okcchamber.com
Mickie Lara, Criminal Justice Task Force Liaison,
Greater Oklahoma City Chamber